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The materials for the following history were princi- 
pally gathered from old settlers during a recent residence 
of some length in East Tennessee and Western Nori^h 
Carolina. Several of these were descendants of charac- 
ters who appear in the narrative, and one of them was 
the son of a trusted friend of Sevier, and the secretary 
of his abortive commonwealth of Franklin. This gen- 
tleman was Dr. J, G. M. Bamsey, of Knoxville, the ven- 
erable author of the "Annals of Tennessee/^ He had 
known Sevier and Robertson intimately in his youth — 
they not having died till he was nearly of the age of 
manhood — ^and during nearly fifty years he had been 
president of the Tennessee Historical Society, and a dili- 
gent student of Western history. 

Though when J knew him Dr. Ramsey was bed-rid- 
den and approaching his ninetieth year, his mind was as 
clear and his memory as distinct as in his prime, and 
he delighted in nothing so much as recounting those 
olden days when civilization was first planted beyond the 
AUeghanies. He was a lovable old man, fond of social 
converse ; and, knowing this, I often visited him, and at 


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times listened for hours, while, with glowing face and 
gleaming eye, he poured forth a stream of quaint elo- 
quence that wias absolutely musical. Both he and his 
subject fascinated me ; and, seeing this, he at length pro- 
posed that I should write out a full and connected his- 
tory of the early settlers beyond the mountains — a work 
he had intended to do, but had been prevented from 
doing by occupations during the war and his subsequent 
infirmities. Without actually deciding to do this, I set 
about a systematic inyestigation of the subject, seeking 
acquaintance with many of the old settlers, yisiting the 
scenes where important events had occurred, and read- 
ing what little had been written about that early period. 
Then I investigated collateral events, and attempted to 
place these pioneers in their appropriate positions on the 
broad canvas of American history. In this I had not 
proceeded far when I discovered a fact which surprised 
me with its novelty. 

That fact was this : That three of these unknown 
backwoodsmen, clad in buckskin hunting - shirts, and 
leading inconsiderable forces to battle in the depths of a 
far-away forest, not only planted civilization beyond the 
Alleghanies, bift exerted a most important influence in 
shaping the destinies of this country. To the reader this 
statement may appear wildly extravaga.nt ; and so the 
idea seemed to me until I had thoroughly studied the sub- 
ject, and taken a view of all the circumstances. Then I 
saw clearly two things : first, that two of these men had 
thrice saved the country by thwarting the British plan to 

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envelop and crush the Southern Colonies, and by turning 
the tide of the Eevolution at King's Mountain ; and, 
second, that, after the Eevolution, the three acting to- 
gether had frustrated the design of Spain to dismember 
and weaken the Union by causing the erection of a sep- 
arate republic in the country between the AUeghanies 
and the Mississippi, which erection would have kept the 
vast region beyond that river a Spanish province, and 
closed it forever to the entrance of Anglo-Saxon civiliza- 

These three men were John Sevier, Isaac Shelby, and 
James Eobertson, all of them characters worthy of the 
most heroic ages, and so exactly adapted to the work 
which had to be done that the conclusion is irresistible 
that they were, like Washington and Lincoln, "provi- 
dential men." They marched to the sound of neither 
drum nor bugle, and no flaming bulletins proclaimed 
their exploits in the ears of a listening continent ; their 
slender forces trod silently the Western solitudes, and 
their greatest battles were insignificant skirmishes never 
reported beyond the mountains; but their deeds were 
pregnant with consequences that will be felt along the 
coming centuries. It is for this reason that their history 
should be written. 

In this volume I have attempted to depict the work 
of these men from the first settlement of Watauga to the 
close of the Eevolutionary War; and, in writing it, I 
have availed myself of Dr. Eamsey's ''Annals," and 
gleaned some facts in reference to the King's Mountain 

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expedition from the work of Lyman C. Draper, LL. D. ; 
but a large part of my material I hare deriyed from what 
may be termed "original sources'' — old settlers, whose 
statements I have carefully yerified and compared with 
one another. In a second yolume I shall hope to bring 
events down to the deaths of Sevier and Bobertson. 

I will merely add, in the words of the writer of the 
book of Maccabees, "Let this be enough in the way of 
a preface, for it is a foolish thing to make a long pro- 
logue and to be short in the story itself. I have taken 
in hand no easy task, yea, rather a business full of watch- 
ing and labor. ... If I have done well, and as it be- 
seemeth the history, it is what I desire ; but, if not so 
perfectly, it must be pardoned me." 

Edmund Kibke. 

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Enoland^s Allies 9 

Description of the country west of the Alleghanies — Character 
of the first settlers, and of John Sevier — Oconostota, head king 
of the Cherokees, visits England, and owns allegiance to George 
II — ^Account of the Cherokees ; their religion, government, char- 
acter, manner of living, and history — They side with the English 
in the war with France for the possession of North America — 
Treaty, by which they cede lands to the English, and allow them 
to build Forts Loudon and Prince Greorge — ^A party of them par- 
ticipate m the capture of Fort Du Quesne, and fourteen are slain 
by the settlers on their return through Western Virginia — This 
leads to a war with the English — Forts Loudon and Prince George 
invested by the Indians — The former surrendered by Captain 
John Stuart, on terms that the garrison should retain their 
arms, and have unmolested passage to Yirginia — The garrison 
treacherously massacred, none being spared but Stuart, Isaac 
Thomas, and one other person — The friendship of Atta-Culla- 
Culla saves Stuart from subsequent massacre — The Indian 
vice-king aids him to escape, and guides him in safety to Vir- 
ginia—A British force chastises the Cherokees and destroys 
their towns — ^They submit, and are granted peace on the inter- 
cession of Atta-CuUa-Culla — Captain Stuart appointed British 
Superintendent of Indian Affairs at the South. 


The FuEST Settless 38 

Darnel Boone's explorations — ^A company formed to purchase 
Kentucky, and a large part of Tennessee, and Boone and Scag- 

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gins employed to explore the country — ^They are accompanied 
by James Robertson, who decides to settle at Watauga — De- 
scription of the country — ^William Bean, the first settler west 
of the Alleghanies — Robertson plants a crop of com, and sets 
out to return to North Carolina — ^Loses his way in the forest, 
and narrowly escapes death from starvation — Is rescued by two 
hunters, who guide him on the way to the settlements — Sixteen 
families emigrate to Watauga in the following spring — Their 
outfit and journey described — ^Arrival at Watauga, where they 
find immigrants from Virginia — Temporary homes provided — 
Game abundant — Inducements offered to settlers by Virginia 
— Description of the settlement, and manner of life of the set- 
tlers — ^They enjoy peace and prosperity, though surrounded by 
savages, and shut out from civilization by a high mountain-bar- 

On the Outposts 61 

Character and infiuence of Robertson — ^Arrival at Watauga 
of Evan and Isaac Shelby, and John Sevier — ^Their personal ap- 
pearance — ^Ancestry and early life of Sevier — His character and 
remarkable ascendency over the men of the border — ^He settles 
at Watauga — A civil government formed, the first beyond the 
Alleghanies — ^The settlers not within the limits of Virginia, and 
warned off their lands by the British Indian agent — ^A friendly 
council called with the Cherokees, which is attended by the 
principal chiefs, who grant the settlers an eight years* lease of 
the lands on the Watauga — ^A friendly festivity follows, during 
which a young brave is shot by a concealed white stranger — 
The Indians are incensed and depart hastily, with threats of 
vengeance — Robertson volunteers to visit and attempt to pacify 
the Cherokees — His hazardous journey ; meets Isaac Thomas, 
who accompanies him to Echota, the Indian capital — Robertson 
attends a council of the Indians, allays their animosity, and 
meets their prophetess, Nancy Ward — ^While Robertson is away, 
Sevier builds a fort at Watauga, and prepares to defend the 
place against the Cherokees. 

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Befobe the Stobm 91 

Four years of peace and prosperity — Immigration flows in 
from Virginia ; its character — Boone attempts the settlement of 
Kentucky, but has to turn back — Lord Dunmore's war — ^Battle 
of Point Pleasant, in which Sevier, Shelby, and Robertson are 
engaged — Robertson and Valentine Sevier save the Virginians 
from a surprise, and Isaac Shelby decides the victory — In a visit 
to the Cherokees Boone proposes to buy, for the Transylvania 
Company, the whok of Kentucky, and all of Tennessee north of 
the Cumberland — A treaty made at Watauga, by which the pur- 
chase is effected, and the Watauga settlers acquire their lands 
in fee-simple — The treaty opposed by Ooonostota in a prophetic 
speech— He warns Boone that he will have some difficulty in 
getting the country settled — News of the battles of Lexington 
and Concord arrives, and the settlers asked to be enrolled to de- 
fend the seaboard — ^Watauga is " annexed " to North Carolina — 
Stuart concerts with (xeneral Gage the subjugation of the South- 
em colonies, by a simultaneous assault in front and rear, and 
enlists in the plan the Cherokees and other Southern Indians — * 
The plan fully disclosed by a British historian. 


The Fibst Struggle . . 106 

Isaac Thomas warns the settlers that the British are inciting 
the Cherokees to hostilities — John Stuart appears among them, 
and they prepare to war upon the whites — ^The settlements are 
put in a state of defense, and the forces divided between 
Forts Patrick Henry and Watauga — The settlers warned that 
the Indians are advancing under Drag^ng Canoe and Ocono- 
Btota — The garrison of Fort Patrick Henry marches to meet 
them — The battle of Long Island Flats, which is saved by Isaac 
Shelby — "A great day's work in the woods" — ^The wife of 
William Bean taken prisoner — Ooonostota surrounds Fort Lee 
— ^Narrow escape of Catherine Sherrill — The Cherokees attack 
the fort, but are beaten off with considerable loss — Evan Shel- 

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by and Parson Gummiogs come to the rescue — Bage of Drag- 
ging Canoe — ^Toung Moore burned at a stake — A like fate de- 
termined on for Mrs. Bean, but she b released, and restored to 
her home by the Indian prophetess — Simultaneous attack by 
the British upon Charleston, which is beaten off by Moultrie — 
The two Tictories very remarkable. 

Bbtbibution \ . . 123 

" One with God a majority "—The British plan being discov- 
ered by the settlers, it excites universal indignation, and arrays 
the colonists more strongly against the mother-country — ^They 
rise and fall upon the Indians — Pa trick Hen ry orders a descent 
upon Oconostota on the Tellioo — Tfie whites, eighteen hundred 
strong and guided by Isaac Thomas, invade the Indian country, 
burning all before them — Sevier and Robertson go with them — 
Sevier, in command of the scouts, gains accurate knowledge of 
the hostile country, which is of great value subsequently— 
Oconostota subdued and forced to make peace, but Dragging 
Canoe refuses to " come in " — Increased immigration follows the 
war — The settlers are drilled by the conflict, for the future, and 
Sevier trained to be their leader — The Chickamaugas still hos- 
tile — ^An account of these Indians, and descriptions of their 
stronghold — Sevier proposes the withdrawal of the guard 
loaned by Virginia — ^He and Robertson, with their force of two 
hundred, can attend to the Chickamaugas — ^North Carolina ex- 
tends civil jurisdiction over Watauga. 


Peaok which was not Peace 188 

Dragging Canoe makes a raid upon the settlements — ^With a 
small party he breaks into Robertson's bam and steals his 
horses — ^Is followed and overtaken by Robertson, who recovers 
the stolen animals, and returns safely home, though pursued by 
greatly superior numbers — A short war follows, during which 
Sevier began his long career as an Indian fighter — ^His military 
genius — Tired at last of continual defeat, Dragging Canoe re- 

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treats to his mountain fastnesses — Robertson appointed by 
North Carolina resident agent among the Cberokees — His im- 
portant services in preventing general hostilities — Sevier sends 
relief to BooDe, who is beleaguered in the fort at Boonesbor- 
ough — ^Tories infest Watauga, and are hanged or driven out by 
riflemen — ^Deplorable condition of Wilkes and Surry Counties, 
and the Backwater settlements — Some account of their people, 
and instances of their dealings with Tories — Every man at 
Watauga required to take an oath of allegiance to the United 
States, and the region cleared of Tories — ^Progress of society in 
Watauga from the hunting and pastoral state to the agricultu- 
ral condition — The first shingled house erected in 1111 — Incor- 
poration of Jonesboro and erection there of a court-house in 
1119 — Specifications for the erection of the seat of justice. 
The advent of erosCT5ad schools, and the country schoolmis- 
tress — ^The first church erected, and the arrival of Parson 
Doak, a man of rare qualities — ^At the close of 1778 there was 
peace beyond the mountains. 

Anotheb Coil of the Anaoottda . ^ , . . 168 
From 1776 to 1779 the Southern colonies had a respite from 
British invasion — ^Another front and rear attack now decided 
upon by Sir Henry Clinton — ^The gigantic plan : its failure an- 
other miracle in American history — The operations of George 
Hogers Clark — ^A raid from Dragging Canoe gives warning of 
the British plan to Sevier — ^An expedition against the Chicka- 
maugas decided upon — To it Isaac Shelby contributes the 
sinews of war — ^Its success, which paralyzes the Southern In- 
dians and prevents the coiling of the anaconda — ^Departure of 
Robertson to found the first settlement on the Cumberland — 
His belief that he was destined by Providence to be the ad- 
vance-guard of Western civilization. 

The Reab-Guabd at the Feont. . ; • . .177 
An enforced peace with the Indians induces increased immi- 
gration into Watauga — The British eommcnce a new and 

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stronger attack upon the Soathem colonies — They capture 
Charleston, and overrun Georgia and South Carolina — ^A small 
force under Colonel McDowell on Broad River, the only body of 
enrolled patriots in South Carolina^-Clinton returns to New 
York, leaving the supreme command to Comwallis, who delays 
his northward march until the summer heats are over — The 
mountain people of the Carolinas mostly Tories — Their charac- 
ter — Comwallis sends Colonel Ferguson to recruit among them 
— Character and career of Ferguson — His belief that Washing- 
ton was once at the mercy of his rifle — ^With two thousand men 
he moves northward, and then McDowell sends urgent appeals 
to Sevier and Shelby for aid from over the mountains — Sevier 
detained at home by the threatening attitude of the Indians, 
but Shelby, with four hundred men, goes to the aid of Mc- 
Dowell — ^A new activity at once apparent among McDowelPs 
forces — Shelby and Elijah Clarke surround Thicketty Fort, and 
capture the Tory colonel, Patrick Moore, and his entire force— 
The victors are pursued by Ferguson, fight a strong advance de- 
tachment, but return in safety to McDowell — Shelby and Clarke 
soon go upon another expedition against a strong British force 
at Musgrove*s Mills — ^They are victorious, but at the close of 
the action they hear of the defeat of Gates at Camden, and 
make a rapid retreat to the mountains — ^Are pursued by the 
British, but reach the mountains in safety — Clarke attacks, 
and is repulsed from, Augusta — The darkness before the 


The Gathbeino of the Clans 200 

The marriage of Sevier and Catherine Sherrill — ^Arrival at 
Sevier's of Shelby and his men — Conference between Sevier and 
Shelby — ^The former's resolution, " The mountains shall be free " 
— Shelby returns to King's Meadows, and there receives a 
threatening message from Ferguson — He hastens to Sevier, and 
the two dcdde upon the King's Mountain expedition — They 
muster their forces, and, o«n the 26th of September, bring them 
tc^ther at Watauga — Here a draft is adopted, not to decide 
who should go, but who should stay at home — Sevier's two sons 

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'* go to the war," and he borrows, and afterward repays, the 
money which completes the outfit of the expedition — ^All told, 
the force numbers ten hundred and forty, and, after Parson 
Doak commits them to divine protection, they set out on their 
march, shouting, "With the sword of the Lord and of our 
Gideons I " 


The Maboh to the Battle 219 

Incidents of the march — Desertion of two of Sevier's men, 
who carry tidings of the patriot approach to Ferguson — ^The 
route changed in consequence, and, after sixty miles of unex- 
ampled travel, the expedition arrives at the eastern foot of the 
Alleghanies — ^At Quaker Meadows they are joined by Colonel 
Cleveland, with three hundred and fifty men — With better roads 
they now proceed more rapidly — Being delayed one day by a 
violent storm, they mature a plan of operations, and elect Colo- 
nel Campbell as oflBcer of the day — ^Arrived at Gilbert Town, 
they find Ferguson had decamped, giving out the false report 
that he was going to Ninety-six — They follow on the route he 
took, but lose all trace of him at the Broad River — Are saved 
from the mistake of marching upon Ninety-six by the oppor- 
tune arrival of Colonel Lacey, of Sumter's command, who pro- 
poses to join them with all his troops — The two commands meet 
at Cowpens, and then, the best men and horses being selected 
from the whole body, they set out with a force of only nine 
hundred and sixty, for a more rapid pursuit of Ferguson — They 
come up with him at King's Mountain, and at once surround his 
position, and bring on the battle. 


KiKG^s Mountain , , , 248 

Description of the mountain — The force of Ferguson num- 
bers about eleven hundred, carefully drilled, and well armed 
with musket and bayonet — Shelby discovers a gap leading to 
the enemy's position, and, entering it, is met by a shower of 
bullets — This begins the battle, which lasts upwaid of an hour. 

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the patriots alternately driven, and driving the enemy — ^At last 
in a desperate charge of the patriots, the British are forced into 
a confused mass at one end of the hill, and a flag is raised in 
token of surrender — This flag, and another raised soon after- 
ward, are cut down by Ferguson — ^But he soon perceives that 
all is lost, and spurs his horse directly upon Sevier's lines, in 
the hope to escape down the mountain — He is pierced by no 
less than six bullets, and falls lifeless — ^This decides the battle 
— ^The entire British force killed, wounded, or taken prisoners 
— Not a man escaped — ^A terrible night follows the battle, but 
morning comes at last, and the little army prepares for its home- 
ward march, with its seven hundred prisoners — At night they 
reach a deserted plantation, twelve miles from the field of bat- 
tle, where they harvest a field of sweet-potatoes, the first food 
they have tasted for forty-eight hours — Their progress after this 
slow, and at the end of a week they had gone only forty miles 
— Then a court-martial was convened to try the Tory criminals 
they had captured — Thirty-six condemned, but only nine exe- 
cuted, owing to the interference of Sevier and Shelby — Craw- 
ford released on the intercession of Sevier, and becomes a good 
citizen — ^After a weaiy march they cross the Catawba, and are 
beyond pursuit from the British — ^Meanwhile, Comwallis, having 
heard exaggerated reports of the patriot force, and that they 
are moving upon him, is retreating much more rapidly toward 
Charleston, and he does not halt till he is a hundred miles away 
at Winnsboro. 

An Indian Wab 275 

Sevier returns by a rapid march to Watauga, where he learns 
that the Indians are marching on the settlements — With scarcely 
an hour's rest, he rides forward to meet them — ^He defeats them 
at Boyd's Creek, where Dragging Canoe is supposed to have been 
slain-^Then re-enforced, he marches into, and lays waste, the 
Indian country — ^Returning to Echota, Sevier offers peace to the 
Indians — It is accepted by the Ottari Cherokees — ^For their serv- 
ices Sevier and Shelby are voted a sword and pistols by North 
Carolina — Now the Erati Cherokees descend upon the settle- 

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inentB, and Sevier inyades their stronghold among the Smoky 
Mountains — ^With only a small force he defeats them utterly, 
and destroys their villages — Oconostota now dethroned, and suc- 
ceeded by Old Tassell. 


The Final Conflicts 802 

Sevier and Shelby called again to the aid of Greene in inter- 
cepting Comvrallis, who is suspected of intending to retreat 
southward from Yorktown — ^With five hundred volunteers they 
repair at once to his headquarters, where they hear of the sur- 
render of Comwallis — But joining Marion they march to the 
seaboard to aid in driving John Stuart into Charleston — They 
capture a British post, and, hearing of their amval, Stuart 
makes a disorderly retreat to the seaboard, which is the last 
that history relates of the able man who conceived the wide- 
sweeping but pitiless plan by which the British hoped to subdue 
the Southern colonies— Concluding remarks. 

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e2^gland's allies. 

It is related, of Daniel Boone that when he climbed 
to the summit of the Alleghanies, and looked down 
upon the vast herds of deer and buffalo which were 
grazing at his feet, he said to his companion, Calla- 
way, "I am richer than the man in Scripture who 
owned the cattle on a thousand hills : I own the wild 
beasts in a thousand valleys." 

It may be questioned if Boone had any adequate 
conception of the stupendous possessions of the "man 
'in Scripture " ; but he was certainly justified in boast- 
ing of the wide magnificence of this domain, which, 
by "right of discovery," he claimed as his own. One 
of its native inhabitants might have told him that 
two stout braves, with two paddles, could not skirt 
its southern and western boundaries, and reach its 
northern limit on the Ohio, in less than "three 
moons " ; but no language known to the Indian could 
describe the boundless wealth, animate and inanimate. 

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that lay hidden in its unexplored recesses. By the- 
leaves on the trees^ or the stars of a cloudless nighty 
he might have indicated the countless wild animals 
that roamed over it ; but how would he have pictured 
the leafy magnificence of its forests, or the grassy 
luxuriance of the many "openings" that everywhere 
dotted its surface — the burial-places of a long-vanished 
race, which has faded from the earth, leaving only 
these silent memorials of its existence ? 

And yet this magnificent domain Charles II had 
given away, in a fit of lavish munificence, to a few of 
his favorites, at a time when he neglected to pay his 
honest debts, and was content to supply himself with 
pocket-money by the betrayal of his country. But 
what better could be expected of a man so lamentably 
ignorant of geography as to describe this kingly tract as 
bounded by two white stakes on the shore of the Atlantic 
— one at the twenty-ninth parallel, the other at 36°, 30' 
— and extending thence westward to the "South Seas" ! 
— ^a description more indefinite than that of the famous 
Fourth of July orator, who, about the time of the Mexi- 
can War, bounded this country "on the north by the 
Aurora Borealis, on the east by the rising sun, on' the 
west by the horizon, and on the south by as far as you 
have a mind to go." Explorers have traversed every 
square mile of this territory for now more than two cent- 
uries, and yet that western boundary of Charles II is 
still undiscovered. 

However, we are now concerned with but a small 

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. portion of this vast domain, namely, that which lies be- 
tween the abore-mentioned lines of latitude, and extends, 
east and west, fi'om the AUeghanies to the Mississippi ; 
for this was the early home of Western civilization. 
Here was bom, and cradled, and fostered into lusty life, 
the infant Hercules who was to found in those Western 
wilds a grander empire than the world has seen since the 
age of Pericles. 

This volume — with one to follow it — is an imperfect 
attempt to do tardy justice to the men who not only 
reared this young giant, but in the darkest hour of our 
Eevolutionary War threw their swords into the trem- 
bling scale, and turned the balance for American free- 
dom. They were the rear-guard of the Eevolution, as 
well as the advance-guard of Civilization ; and yet they 
are scarcely mentioned in general history : for their 
work was done in the silence of the wilderness, and if for 
a moment they emerged into the view of men to strike a 
vital blow for their country, they vanished again, as 
quickly as they came, into the solitudes of the far-off 

But they were patriots and heroes, and their names 
should not be suffered to perish. All of them were men 
of Spartan mould, and one was of a nature so many-sided, 
and so great, as to be altogether the most unique charac- 
ter in American history. B«one was merely a pioneer, a 
scout in advance of civilization, and by his very nature 
he was bound to keep always a length ahead of the bat- 
talion of emigration ; but, thanks to Byron and the biog- 

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raphers, he is to-day known half the world over. But 
John Sevier was more than a pioneer, more even than a 
statesman, or a general : he was a civilizer, a great or- 
ganizer, a nation-builder, and one of those absolutely 
unselfish spirits whom God scatters only here and there 
through the centuries. And yet his history is still un- 
written, and he is to-day almost unknown east of the 
Alleghanies. But it is not so beyond the mountains. 
There he is spoken of with a love and veneration that 
are seldom accorded by one man to another. I know 
of no other man who ever held, as he did for forty-five 
years, the unbroken confidence and undivided affection 
of a whole people. Even now, when for three fourths of 
a century he has been in his grave, old men sj>eak his 
name with loving reverence, and young children listen 
with wondering delight to the thrilling story of his life, 
in many a stately home and many a rude cabin west of 
the Alleghanies. 

The lives of such men are the common property of 
the country ; and in a time like this, when the greed of 
gold is festering at the very heart of the nation, it is 
well such a life should be told, that we may contemplate 
a character who had no ambition but duty, and no greed 
but the good of his fellows. In writing ifc, I shall have 
to relate the lives of his compatriots, and recount the 
story of the early settlements beyond the Alleghanies; 
for his career was so interwoven with the history of the 
community that one can not be told without relating the 
other. For more than forty years he was the moving 

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spring of erery event, the soul of a whole common- 
wealth ; and this it is which makes his career, as well as 
his character, so unique in our history. 

The theatre of his operations is a territory larger than 
the combined kingdoms of England and Scotland ; and 
from the great richness of its soil it is capable of sus- 
taining a much denser population than now inhabits the 
British Islands. Two noble rivers sweep in concentric 
circles through its most fertile portion, and the great 
Father of Waters drains its western boundary, affording 
ready transportation to the seaboard. It yields abun- 
dantly all the. products known to the temperate regions, 
and has a mild and equable climate — ^not so hot as to re- 
lax, nor so cold as to benumb, the physical energies ; and 
hence it possesses all the elements essential to the growth 
of a country in wealth, intelligence, and civilization. 
And yet throughout this vast region there could not, 
until the year 1769, be found a single human habitation, 
not a solitary hut of the white settler, nor a smoky 
wigwam of a roving Cherokee. It was the hunting- 
ground and battle-field of the Indians, claimed by hos- 
tile tribes, but occupied by none, and hence was an in- 
viting field for civilized settlement. 

King Charles modestly called the vast country he 
bestowed upon his favorites ^^ Carolina," in honor of 
himself, and he claimed title to it by what is called the 
'^ right of discovery," which implies that some of his sub- 
jects had sailed along its western limits, or hunted deer, 
or trapped for beaver, somewhere within its borders. 

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Boone's jocose claim was intended to be absurd^ and yet 
it rested upon the same basis as that of the English king, 
and had the additional strength of actual occnpation, 
evidence of which he has handed down to us in his sign- 
manual^ affixed to the trunk of a large beech^ which still 
stands on the bank of Boone's Creek — a branch of the 
Watauga — not far from Jonesboro, in Tennessee. The 
superscription is as follows : 

D, Boon 
GillED A. BAR On 

in ThE 



Boone never attempted to inforce his title, except 
against the " bars " and catamounts and other wild ani- 
mals which he found roaming at large in the woods with- 
out ostensible owners; but King Charles did his — or 
rather his successor, King George, did it in his name ; 
for King Charles had long since been gathered to his 
ancestors, politely asking pardon, when dying, for being 
so long about it, instead of apologizing, as he should 
have done, for having been born at all. So it was left 
to King George to enforce the discovery title, and this 
he did, utterly ignoring the fact that certain Shawnees, 
Creeks, Cherokees, Choctaws, and Chickasaws had pad- 
dled up and down the Mississippi, and hunted deer and 
trapped for beaver upon this tenitoryfor an indefinite 

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number of centuries before William the Illegitimate 
founded the commonwealth of England. 

The Indian has naturally a keen and shrewd intellect, 
but he neyer could understand this logic of the white 
man, namely, that the mere looking at or handling of a 
thing gives one its ownership. The Cherokees — ^perhaps 
the most intelligent of all the North American tribes — 
seemed the most obtuse when the colonial governors of 
George II attempted to instruct them in this branch of 
civilized knowledge. Then it occurred to the sapient 
king that, as his servants had failed to properly instruct 
the savages, he had himself better attend personally to 
their education. Accordingly, he invited half a dozen 
of the Cherokee chieftains to visit him at his great house 
on the other side of the Atlantic. They went. He 
shook hands with them, showed them his ships of war, 
his troops and arsenals, and the great crowds of people 
who came and went through the streets of London, and, 
more than this, invited them to drink Holland gin with 
him at his own table in the palace of St. James ; but he 
never said one word to them about the " right of discov- 
ery," nor gave them a single lesson in civilized logic. 

One of these chieftains was Oconostota, then a young 
man, but already of great influence among his people. 
He was a magnificent specimen of physical manhood, 
and, withal, had that keenness of perception, grasp of 
intellect, and strength of will which are accounted great- 
ness. These qualities made him afterward the archima- 
gus and most eminent man among the Cherokees. 

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Queen Caroline, who was much more of a man than her 
husband, had a fine perception of character. She saw 
the budding greatness of the splendid young savage, and 
paid him very distinguished attention. She introduced 
him to the ladies of her court, drove him about her pal- 
ace-grounds, and lavished upon him all those blandish- 
ments which she knew so well how to use when she de- 
Sired to cajole a friend or conciliate an enemy. 

It is impossible to say whether it was owing to the 
affability of the queen, or the Hollands of the king, or 
to what he saw of the prowess of the British people, but 
it is certain that from this time forth Oconostota quietly 
acquiesced in the doctrine of discovery, and for more 
than fifty years — with only one brief and bloody inter- 
ruption — ^renaained the fast friend and loyal subject of 
the British crown. This fact entailed upon the white 
settlers beyond the Alleghanies twenty-five years of sav- 
age warfare, and upon all who would understand their 
history the necessity to know something about Oconos- 
tota and the Cherokees. 

The Cherokee name for "fire" is ^'cheera," which 
element they believe to compose the lower heaven ; 
hence, their magi are styled cheera-taghe (men of di- 
vine fire), and their braves cheera-kee (sons of fire), a 
word which, in the time of the Eevolution, well ex- 
pressed the burning valor of their warriors. Among 
themselves the nation was called Tsaraghee, but by the 
whites the name, applied properly to only the braves, 
came gradually to designate the whole people. 

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When first known to Europeans, and until their re- 
moyal by General Scott beyond the Mississippi, they 
occupied a country forming now the upper portion of 
Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, and all that part of 
Tennessee which lies south of the Little Tennessee Biyer ; 
but their tradition is that their original home was in the 
very far West, and this is confirmed by the fact that in 
their language are words to represent the whale and * 
other marine animals, which indicates that at some dis- 
tant period they lired on or near the shore of an ocean. 

They were the mountaineers of aboriginal America, 
and, like most mountaineers, had an intense love of 
country, and a keen appreciation of the beautiful in 
Nature, as is shown by the poetical names they haye 
bequeathed to their rivers and mountains. They were a 
manly race, uniformly tall and athletic, and of superior 
courage and intelligence. It was their military prowess 
alone that enabled them to retain possession of their 
country — one of the most beautiful in the world — ^against 
the repeated attacks of the many war-like tribes by whom 
they were surrounded. 

like all savage people, the Gherokees were intensely 
superstitious. They believed in one Great Spirit, who 
governs all things, but has deputed the administration 
of human affairs to two inferior divinities — one good, the 
other evil. The evil spirit had great control over man- 
kind, and would stand, at a last day, as the accuser of all 
nations. He was well-nigh ubiquitous, being every- 
where when least wanted or expected ; but he had his 

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throne among the peaks and precipices of Whiteside 
Mountain, one of the loftiest of the Cowee range, and 
near ifcs southern terminns. There, in a moss-grown 
inclosure, curved by Nature to form the segment of a 
circle, and walled in by stupendous rocks which rise 
to a perpendicular height of eighteen hundred feet, he 
held his court ; but, casting aside his state, he occa- 
sionally walked abroad upon the earth, and then, as 
he strode in the darkness from peak to peak, leaving 
upon the bald mountain-tops the print of his awful 
footsteps, he spoke to the red man in the storm and the 

They believed their people were originally mortal, in 
spirit as well as in body; but that above the clouds, 
where the highest mountains lift their tallest peaks, was 
a celestial forest inhabited by immortals. Ages ago the 
great chief of this forest had wooed a Cherokee maiden, 
and to win her as his bride had consented that thence- 
forth all brave warriors and their faithful squaws should 
be admitted to the celestial hunting-grounds. Thus he 
became the guardian spirit of the Cherokees — ^to watch 
over them in life, and to rescue them in death from their 
evil genius. 

Uncommon events they attributed to supernatural 
agency, either to evil spirits, or to the guardian angel 
who presided over their destinies. Witches and sorcer- 
ers were the agents of the evil spirits ; but their power 
could be overcome by their good spirit, who would act 
through the intercession of the medicine or beloved man 

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of the tribe, tfrho was his immediate and recognized 
agent* This person was always one of superior intelli- 
gence, and, like the famous prophet of the Shawnees, 
officiated as physician, priest, and intercessor with the 
inyisible powers. On occasions the beloved man exer- 
cised a stronger influence oyer the tribe than e?en the 
archimagus, or the most redoubtable chieftains. Dur- 
ing and after the Revolution this office was held by a 
woman ; and, as will appear in the course of this history, 
her single will often thwarted the deliberate and deeply 
concerted plans of the great council of the nation, at the 
head of which was Oconostota, the ablest and most pow- 
erful king ever known among the Cherokees. The 
Cherokee, having thus two divinities, prayed, like the 
cautious deacon, **Good Lord" and '*Good Devil," 
and he sought to propitiate them both by numberless 
ceremonies. Many of these were interesting and signifi- 
cant ; but space forbids my giving them an extended de- 

The government of the Cherokees was an elective 
monarchy— absolute in time of war, not so absolute in 
time of peace, when every man did pretty much accord- 
ing to his own will, governed only by the savage law of 
lex talionis : an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a pel- 
try for a peltry. The king was always their ko?ining, or 
strong man ; and, though elective and subject to depo- 
sition without notice, he often held power, as did Ocon- 
ostota, for half a century. Under him was the half or 
vice king, who was second in command, and acted in 

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his stead in case of the sadden death of the monarch. 
These two rulers, with the chieftains, or princes of the 
scattered Tillages, composed the supreme council of the 
nation, which sat at Ech6ta, their capital, and decided 
all important questions in peace and war. But over the 
archimagus, or king, and even the supreme council, was 
the great and good spirit who was the guardian of the 
Oherokees, and who uttered his will through the beloved 
man or woman of the tribe. The whole was a rude copy 
of the Jewish monarchy — an earthly king, and an in- 
spired prophet who spoke the commands of an invisible 
Jehovah. A copy and yet an original ! 

Their civil code was very brief : Give to every man 
his own, but exact your own to the uttermost farthing. 
Eetaliation with them was a religious duty ; and no obli- 
gation was so sacred as that of sacrificing a murderer to 
the spirit of his victim. Speaking of their passion for 
revenge, Adair, who lived among them forty years, says : 
'^ I have known them to go a thousand miles, in pathless 
woods, over hills and mountains, through large cane- 
swamps full of grape-vines and briers, over broad lakes, 
rapid rivers, and deep creeks ; and all the way endan- 
gered by poisonous snakes, if not with the rambling and 
lurking enemy ; while, at the same time, they were ex- 
posed to the extremities of heat and cold, the vicissitudes 
of the seasons, to hunger and thirst, to fatigue and other 
difficulties. Such is their overboiling revengeful tem- 
per, that they utterly contemn all these things as imag- 
inary trifles, if they are so happy as to get the scalp of 

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the murderer or enemy, to satisfy the supposed craving 
ghosts of their deceased relatives." 

If I add that they were proud, skillful in war, insen- 
sible to danger, and possessed of a thirst for blood, which 
when once aroused made them rush into slaughter like 
horses into a burning bam, it will be seen that they were 
not contemptible antagonists for even that race of heroes 
who were the first settlers beyond the AUeghanies. 

The Cherokees had no large cities, nor even villages, 
but dwelt in scattered townships in the vicinity of some 
stream where fish and game could be found in abun- 
dance. A number of their towns, bearing the musical 
names of Tallasse, Tamottee, Chilhowee, Citico, Ten- 
nassee, and Echota, were, at the opening of the Eevolu- 
tionary War, located upon the rich lowlands lying be- 
tween the Tellico and Little Tennessee Eivers. About 
one third of the tribe occupied these settlements, and 
they were known as the Ottari, or, among the mountains, 
Cherokees. About the same number were located near 
the head-waters of the Savannah, in the great highland 
belt between the Blue Eidgo and the Smoky Mountains, 
and they were styled Erati, or, in the valley, Cherokees. 
Another body, among whom were many Creeks, and 
which was somewhat more numerous and much more 
lawless than either of the others, occupied towns along 
the Tennessee, in the vicinity of Lookout Mountain. 
These, from their residence near the creek of that name, 
were known as Ghickamaugas. 

These three bodies were one people, governed by one 

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archimagus^ and at this time they numbered in all about 
thirty thousand people, between three and four thou- 
sand of whom were ** gun men/* or warriors. 

Echota, which was located on the northern bank of 
the Tellico, about fire miles from the site of Fort Lou- 
don, and thirty southwest from the present city of 
Knoxville, contained their great council-house, and was 
the home of the archi magus, and the belored woman, 
or prophetess of the tribe. It was their sacred town, or 
"city of refuge " ; for this singular people had this addi- 
tional likeness to the Jews under the old theocracy. 
Once within the limits of Echota, an open foe, or even a 
red-handed criminal, could dwell in peace and security. 
The only danger was in going and returning. It is re- 
lated that an Englishman, who in self-defe%e had slain 
a Cherokee, once fled to this sacred city to escape the 
vengeance of the kindred of his victim. He was treated 
here with so much kindness that after a time he deemed 
it prudent to leave his asylum. The Indians warned 
him against the danger ; but he ventured forth, and on 
the following morning his body was found on the out- 
skirts of the town, pierced through and through with a 
score of arrows. 

A brief description of this town will afford an idea 
of all the Cherokee settlements. It consisted of a 
hundred or more cabins and wigwams, scattered with 
some regularity, but at wide intervals, along the bank 
of the river. The cabins, like those of the white set- 
tlers, were square, and built of logs ; but the wigwams 

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were conical^ and framed upon slender poles, gathered 
together at the top, and covered with buffalo robes, 
dressed and smoked to render them impervious to the 
weather* An opening in the side formed the entrance, 
and over it was hung a buffalo hide to serve as a door. 
The fire was built in the center of the lodge, and di- 
rectly over it was an aperture to let out the smoke. 
Here the women performed culinary operations, except 
in summer, when such employments were carried on in 
the open air. At night the occupants of the lodge 
spread their skins and buffalo robes on the ground, 
and men, women, and children went to sleep upon 
them, spread out like a fan, with their feet to the fire. 
By day the robes were rolled together into mats, and 
made to serve as seats. An ordinary lodge would com- 
fortably house a dozen persons, but two families never 
occupied one domicile ; and, as the Cherokees seldom 
had a numerous progeny, it was not often that more 
than five or six individuals were tenants of one wig- 

In Echota these rude dwellings were mostly on the 
two sides of a broad avenue, shaded here and there 
with great oaks and poplars, and trodden hard with the 
feet of many men and horses. In the rear of each 
lodge was a small patch of cleared land, where the 
women and negro slaves — stolen from the white set- 
tlers over the mountains — cultivated beans, com, and 
potatoes, and occasionally some such fruits as pears, 
plums, and apples. All labor was done by the women 

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and slaves, it being beneath the dignity of a Cherokee 
brave to follow any occupation except that of killing — 
either wild animals in the hunt, or his enemies in war. 
The house-lots were without fences, and not an inclos- 
ure was to be seen in the whole settlement — cattle and 
horses being left to roam at large in the woods and 
'^openings," where was the finest of pasturage. 

A little apart from the other wigwams in Echota 
stood one more pretentious than the rest. Like the 
others, it had a frame of poles, covered with tanned 
skins, but it was of larger size, and distinguished from 
them by a singular "totem" — an otter in the coils 
of a water-snake. It was the home, and this the coat 
of arms, of "Nancy Ward," the prophetess of the Chero- 
kees. Near it was the domicile of Oconostota, the re- 
nowned archimagus, and not far away was the grand 
council-house of the tribe. 

This last building occupied a spacious opening, and 
was a circular, tower-shaped structure, some twenty 
feet high and ninety in circumference. It was rudely 
built of stout poles, plastered with clay, and had a roof 
of the same material, which sloped down to broad eaves 
that gave effectual protection to the walls from the 
rain. Its wide entrance was covered with a couple of 
buffalo skins, hung so as to meet together in the 
middle ; but it was without windows, an aperture in 
the roof, protected by a flap, serving to let the smoke 
out, and the light in — ^just enough to make more sensi- 
ble the gloom that shrouded the interior. Low benches, 

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neatly made of cane, were ranged around the circum- 
ference of the room ; and on these sat the warriors of 
the tribe when they gathered to the great councils; 
but they were cleared away when the braves met here 
to perform their green-corn dance — ^a ceremonial resem- 
bling the offering of the first-fruits among the Jews. 

And now, with such a brief glance at the annals of 
the tribe as is necessary to an understanding of the part 
they took in our Revolutionary history, I will take leave 
of the Gherokees until such times as we have to en- 
counter them again in connection with the early white 
settlers. They were visited by De Soto as early as 1640 ; 
but their interior position kept them long from any 
intercourse with, the white settlers on the sea-coast of 
Carolina. The first white man who is known to have 
resided among them was one Cornelius Dogherty, an 
enterprising but lax-principled Irishman, who estab- 
lished himself as a trader in one of the Cherokee towns 
in 1690. 

He introduced horses among them from the whites ; 
and soon they became expert horse-thieves. In retali- 
ation, the white settlers encouraged the tribes living 
nearer the Atlantic to steal the Gherokees themselves, 
and incited tribal wars, in which hundreds of the 
Cherokee braves were captured, sold to the colonists, 
and by them shipped to Cuba, or consigned to hard 
labor in the malarial swamps along the sea-coast. Be- 
ing of great strength and endurance, they were more 
valued as slaves than the more patient and docile ne- 

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gro. In 1693^ after many of their principal brayes had 
been sold into slaTery, twentj of the head men of the 
tribe yisited the goyernor of Carolina^ at Charleston, 
and besought his protection against their neighbors^ the 
Esaws, Congarees, and Tnscaroras. This was granted 
on condition that the Cherokees should admit the 
*^ right of discoyery** by acknowledging the soyereignty 
of Great Britain. The Indians had no altematiye, so 
the slaye-trade was stopped; and then. commenced the 
long subjection of the Cherokees to Great Britain, 
which led them to side with the mother country dur- 
ing the war of the Eeyolution. 

In 1730 began the great conflict between the French 
and English for the possession of North America. 
Actual blood was not shed till 1'2^2, but during this 
year was deyeloped the great project of the French, of 
uniting Canada and Louisiana, and thus bringing the 
whole territory between the Gulf and the St Lawrence 
under their dominion. Already they had seduced the 
Northern tribes; and now their emissaries were busy 
among the Southern Indians, The yarious tribes won 
oyer, the English settlements would be rolled back to 
the se&-board, then subdued, or driyen into the ocean* 

It was a gigantic scheme, and, had it succeeded, 
would haye changed the face of the world. But it did 
not succeed, for Proyidence had destined the Anglo-- 
Saxon race to be the subduers and ciyilizers of North 

To counteract this gigantic scheme. Sir Alexander 

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Gaining was sent in 1730 on a mission to the Creeks and 
Cherokees. The latter tribe then occupied the country 
around the head-waters of the Savannah, and stretching 
northward beyond the Appalachian Mountains; but 
Cuming met their head men at Kequasse, a town among 
the mountains of North Carolina, and near the sources 
of the Hiwasee. They were at this time computed to 
number forty thousand people and six thousand warriors, 
and a yast assemblage came together to meet the British 

Cuming demanded a Renewal of their submission to 
King George, and the right to build forts and quarter 
soldiers among them. They assented to this, and the 
head men, falling on their knees, swore eternal allegiance 
to the British crown. Cuming then nominated Moytoy, 
a chieftain of Tellico, as their head king, and, by unani- 
mous consent, he was inaugurated as archimagus and 
commander of the whole nation. A crown was placed 
upon his head, and he was invested with all the gewgaws 
of royalty. When this was done, the nev-made king 
removed his crown, and, handing it to Cuming, with five 
eeagle tails and some scalps of their enemies, requested 
that he should lay them at the feet of the great father on 
the other side of the ocean. This Cuming declined to 
do, but suggested instead that Moytoy should send a 
deputation of his bravest chiefs to meet in person the 
king of England. Six of them accordingly went, among 
whom was Oconostota, as I have related. They were 
admitted to the presence of George II, and promised 

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him, in the name of their nation, to continue forever 
his majesty's loyal friends and subjects. 

A few years later (in 1738) the small-pox, which, 
along with guns, gunpowder, and bad whisky, the whites 
had introduced among the Indians, swept oyer the 
Cherokee country, depopulating whole towns, and reduc- 
ing the people to about one half their former numbers. 
When the plague ceased, the nation could muster 
scarcely two thousand -warriors. Soon afterward Ocon- 
ostota was made archimagus, or chief king, and an able 
chieftain named Atta-Culla-Culla was elected half-king. 
They held these positions when actual hostilities broke 
out between the French and English in 1752, and till 
after the colonies had achieved their independence of 
Great Britain. 

True to the allegiance sworn to by his predecessor, 
Oconostota, on the breaking out of the French War, sent 
messengers to Governor Glen, of South Carolina, appris- 
ing him that some Frenchmen and their Indian allies 
were among his people, endeavoring to seduce them from 
their friendship to the English, and recommending that 
a general council be held with the nation to renew their 
former treaties. The governor saw the force of this sug- 
gestion, and, accordingly, in 1755 he met the Cherokee 
chiefs and warriors in their own country. About five 
hundred braves were present. A platform was erected 
for the governor under a spreading tree, and Atta-Culla- 
Culla, who, on account of his eloquence, had been ap- 
pointed speaker for the occasion, took a seat on it beside 

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him. The other warriors stood around in silent gravity, 
giving close attention to the proceedings. 

The governor was the first to speak. Eising from 
his seat, he represented in strong terms the power, opu- 
lence, and great goodness of George II, and his special 
affection for his Cherokee children. He had, he said, 
many gifts to make them, but he demanded in return 
the donation of a share of their territory and land upon 
which to build forts to protect his soldiers against their 
enemies, and be a refuge to their friends and allies, the 
Indians. Then he pictured to them the poverty and 
denounced the wicked designs of the French king, ex- 
pressing the hope that the Cherokees would allow no 
Frenchman to enter their towns and poison the minds 
of their young men against the great and good King 

This is the substance of the governor's harangue. 
The simple savages listened to it with grave approval, 
and turned with silent expectation to their own speaker, 
the really great and good Atta-Culla-Culla. 

Holding a bow in one hand and a shaft of arrows in 
the other, he now rose and addressed the governor as 
follows : ** What I now speak our father, the great king, 
should hear. We are brothers to the people of Carolina ; 
one house covers us alL" Taking then a little boy by 
the hand, and presenting him to the governor, he said : 
"We, our wives, and our children, are all children of 
the great King George. I have brought this child that, 
when he grows up, he may remember our agreement on 

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this daj^ and tell it to the next generation^ that it may 
be known forever. '* Then, opening a bag of earth, and 
placing it at the govemor^s feet, he continued: "We 
freely surrender a part of our lands to the great king. 
The French want our possessions, but we will defend 
them while one of our nation shall remain alive. These 
are all the arms*^ — showing iis.bow and arrows — "we 
can make for our defense. We hope the king will pity 
his children, the Cherokees, and send us guns and am- 
munition. We fear not the French. Give us arms, and 
we will go to war against the enemies of the great king." 
Then, handing the governor a string of wampum to con- 
firm what be had said, he added : ^^My speech is at an 
end ; it is the voice of the Cherokee nation. I hope the 
governor will send it to the king, that it may be kept 

By a treaty that followed the Cherokees ceded a large 
territory to the English, of which formal deeds of con- 
veyance were now executed by the head men iu the name 
of the whole people. Soon afterward two forts were 
erected by the English within the Cherokee territory — 
one in the vicinity of Keowee, an Indian town near the 
head-waters of the Savannah ; the other not far from 
their capital city, Echota, on the southern bank of the 
Little Tennessee. This last, which was called Fort Lou- 
don, was in the very heart of the Cherokee nation, and 
a hundred and fifty miles west of the most westerly 
white settlement then in existence. It was soon garri* 
soned by two hundred regular soldiers, and, owing to an 

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inflnz of hunters and traders, became speedily the center 
of a thriving Tillage. 

Hostilities were now in active progress between the 
French and English, and large numbers of the loyal 
Cherokees joined the British army. Several hundred 
were in the northern campaign which resulted in the 
capture of Fort Du Queane, Having lost their horses 
on the expedition, and being poorly supplied with ra- 
tions, they helped themselves, ion their return through 
Western Virginia, to such provisions as came in their 
way, and appropriated a few horses which they found 
running at large in the woods. Forgetting that these 
Cherokees had saved their homes from burning, and 
their wives and children from intended massacre, the 
German settlers of that region fell upon thcm> and in a 
night attack, killed and scalped some fourteen, and took 
a larger number prisoners. In the butchery they even 
imitated the cruelty of the worst savages; and Adair 
adds, ^^ The murderers were so audacious as to impose the 
scalps on the goverament for those of French Indians, 
and actually obtained the premium allowed at that time 

As was natural, this atrocity aroused at once a spirit 
of deep resentment and bloody retaUation^ among the 
Cherokees ; and the chieftains were powerless to prevent 
an outbreak by the whole nation. Oconostota at first, 
much against his will, consented that only as many 
whites should be slaughtered as would equal the killed 
of his own people ; bat the work of blood once begun> 

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either he could not restrain his brayes^ or his own savage 
nature became aroused^ and he went into the fight with 
all his energy. 

With a strong force he invested Fort Prince George, 
and Fort Lbudon, and soon reduced the garrison of the 
latter place to the fearful alternative of perishing by hun- 
ger, or submitting to the mercy of infuriated savages. 
For a whole month the two hundred men within the fort 
subsisted on half-starved horses and dogs, and a few 
measures of an Indian bean, stealthily supplied them by 
some friendly squaws. Captain John Stuart, an officer 
of great address and sagacity, and much beloved among 
the Cherokees, was then commissioned by the garrison to 
proceed to Echota, and make the best terms of surrender 
possible with Oconostota. The chief consented that the 
officers and men should march out with their arms, and 
be allowed unmolested passage to Virginia or Fort 
Prince George, and agreed that an Indian escort should 
go with them to provide game for the journey. He 
himself accompanied them during the first day's march. 

At night the English encamped! about fifteen miles 
from the fort, near the Indian town of Tellico. There 
Oconostota left them, and soon, one by one, and on vari- 
ous pretexts, the Indian escort slunk away through the 
woods to the neighboring Indian village. This excited 
Captain Stuart's suspicions, and, fearing treachery, he set 
a strict guard over the encampment. The night passed 
away without an attack ; but just before dawn, when all 
were locked in the soundest sleep, a sentry rushed up to 

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Stuart with the alarm that the woods were full of Indi- 
ans, advancing stealthily to surround the two hundred 
sleeping soldiers. Stuart called all ^'to arms" ; hut, be- 
fore one half of the men were fuUy awake, a heayy yolley 
was poured in upon them from the woods in all direc- 
tions. Panic-stricken, and debilitated by long fasting, the 
soldiers made but a feeble resistance, and in a few min- 
utes the butchery was over. Accounts differ as to the 
number slain. Hewitt, writing in 1799, gives the total 
at three officers and twenty-six privates ; Haywood, writ- 
ing not much later, states that none escaped except Cap- 
tain Stuart, an Indian-trader named Isaac Thomas, and 
one other, a private soldier. This last is the account 
generally accepted. 

Captain Stuart would undoubtedly have been mas- 
sacred at once but for his general popularity among the 
Indians. As it was, he was securely pinioned, and 
marched back to Fort Loudon, there to have his fate 
decided. Atta-Culla-Culla was his devoted friend. He 
was not present at the surrender, nor at the massacre ; 
but, as soon as he heard of the captivity of Stuart, he 
hastened to the fort, and ransomed him from his captors, 
giving for his release ^' his rifle, his clothes, and all he 
could command.'* 

Had Stuart fallen in this Indian massacre, eight years 
of bloody warfare might have been saved to the border 
settlements. Thus it is that often upon one life hangs 
the fate of thousands. There is no question that Ocon- 
ostota planned and instigated the massacre. It accords 

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with his character^ which was crafty^ cniel, and treach* 
erousy and he had now become greatly imbittered 
against the English. 

Atta-Culla-Calla took Stuart into his own lodgings at 
the fort, and shared with him his rations. Bat, though 
under the powerful protection of the vice-king, Stuart 
was not yet out of danger. Ten bags of gunpowder had 
been found buried in the grounds of the fort ; and he 
was charged with secreting them from the Indians. The 
result would have been instant massacre but for the 
timely interference of Atta-Culla-CuUa, and the presence 
of mind of the interpreter, who declared that Stuart had 
no knowledge of the concealment. 

Oconostota, haying now a supply of ammunition, de- 
cided upon laying immediate siege to the fort on the 
head-waters of the Sarannah. Dispatching runners in all 
directions to raise his warriors, he told Stuart that he 
must accompany the expedition, manage the six captured 
guns that were to compose his artillery, and write such 
letters as he should dictate to the English commandant. 
On Stuart's refusing to engage in this fratricidal work, 
the chief reminded him that the Indians had spared his 
life, and thus acquired a title to his serrices. On his con- 
tinued refusal, Oconostota told him that, should he re- 
main obstinate, he would take him upon the expedition 
by force, and, if the garrison refused to surrender at the 
first summons, he would make a bonfire of his body in 
the sight of his friends, and see if they would hold out 
while he was roasting in the flames. 

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On the instant Staart decided to make his escape or 
perish in the attempt. He apprised Atta-Calla-Cnlla of 
his design, when the noble savage took him by the hand^ 
assured him that he was his friend^ and at the risk of 
his life would deliver him from his captors. To do this, 
he resorted to stratagem. Giving out that he was going 
on a few days' hunt, he took with him bis wife, his 
brother, and his prisoner, and, when once out of sight 
of the fort, shaped his course direct for Virginia. The 
distance was great, wd the utmost expedition was neces- 
sary to escape a pursuit that might be made by Oconos- 
tota. Nine days and nights they journeyed, guided only 
by the sun by day and the moon by night ; but, on the 
tenth day, after a most toilsome and dangerous march, 
they fell in with a detachment of three hundred men 
sent out by the English for the relief of Fort Loudon, 
and, on the fourteenth day, they reached the British 
headquarters on the frontier of Virginia. Captain Stu- 
art was now among friends. IJe loaded AttarCuUa-Culla 
with presents and provisions, and sent him back with 
overtures of peace to the Cherokees. How Atta-Culla- 
Culla was received on his ristitrn to his tribe is not re- 
corded, but his influence among them was not perma- 
nently weakened, for he continued to exercise for many 
years his functions of vice-royalty. 

Canada being now reduced, an adequate British force 
was sent from the North to chastise the Cherokees for 
their bloody treachery. Hearing of their approach, 
Atta-Culla-Oulla appeared in their camp to deprecate the 

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yengeance about to be wreaked upon his people. He 
was told that the English had' the highest regard for him 
personally^ but that the misconduct of Oconostota and 
the majority of the nation was too gross to go unpun- 

The army marched into the heart of the Cherokee 
country ; the Indians made a desperate standi but were 
routed with great slaughter. Fourteen of their towns 
were burned, their com, cattle, and provisions destroyed, 
and they and their families " were driven to seek shelter 
and subsistence among the barren mountains." 

In a few days Atta-Culla-CuUa appeared again in the 
English camp. "My people," he said, "are in great 
distress ; I am come to see what can be done for them." 
His proposals were now listened to, and, out of regard 
for him, a treaty was concluded highly favorable to the 
Cherokees, who, taught by their disasters to dread the 
power of the English, never again swerved from their 
allegiance to King George. 

Two years later it was deemed advisable by the Eng- 
lish government to appoint a general agent and super- 
intendent of Indian affairs at the South. Owing partly 
to the intervention of Atta-CuUa-Culla, but more to his 
known sagacity and influence over the native tribes. 
Captain John Stuart, who so barely escaped at the 
Tellico massacre, was appointed to this office. It was 
a position of jgreat influence, as it gave Stuart practically 
control of all the savages on the frontier. He appointed 
deputies to reside with each of the tribes, who should 

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constantly report to him the state of affairs; and we 
shall soon see that his energy^ sagacity^ and devotion to 
the seryice of his government made him a most powerful 
enemy of the revolted colonies. 

And it was he who conceived the plan, which was 
adopted by the British cabinet, for the complete sup- 
pression, by one united blow, of the revolutionary rebel- 
lion. On three different occasions, at intervals of years, 
the English attempted to carry this plan into execution : 
first under Sir William Howe, and then twice under Sir 
Henry Clinton, and on each occasion they were, in the 
providence of God, thwarted by the great character who 
is the principal actor in this history. It was a bold, 
able, gigantic scheme, and yet we may look into a dozen 
encyclopaBdias and not find the merest mention of John 
Stuart, captain in the British Highlanders. And it was 
a bold, far-reaching, and, considering his means, a won- 
derful achievement, but I venture to say that very few, 
except diligent students of American history, have ever 
so much as heard of John Sevier, the heroic Nolichucky 
Jack of the Border. 

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Daniel Boon^e made his first excursion beyond the 
Alleghanies in 1760, the record of which, as I have men- 
tioned, is still to be seen on a beech-tree near the "Wa- 
tauga. He was enchanted with the country. To him 
it seemed a new world, more genial in climate, beautiful 
in scenery, and magnificent in resources than any of 
which he had ever conceived. He told the wonderful 
story when he returned to his home on the banks of the 
Yadkin ; but his tale fell on incredulous ears. The 
farmers of that region, accustomed to a thin, sandy 
soil, producing only a scanty growth of slender pines, 
could not believe in a yellow loam four feet in depth, 
and bearing dense forests of oak and poplar, often ten 
feet in diameter, and towering aloft a hundred feet be- 
fore they broke into branches. They did not credit the 
wonderful story until it had been confirmed by a young 
farmer, selected by themselves to accompany Boone on 
his third exploration in 1769. 

Boone's second visit was in 1764 ; and again his glow- 
ing accounts of the new country fell generally upon deaf 
ears, though North Carolina was then groaning under 

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the exactions of the colonial governor, Tryon, and dis- 
content was festering everywhere throughout the eastern 
counties. But, if Boone failed to arouse a jmssion for 
emigration among the farmers, he excited a spirit of 
speculation in the wealthier classes, which led to the 
formation of a company for the purpose of huying from 
the Indians a large part of Tennessee and the whole of 
Kentucky. At the head of this company was Colonel 
Richard Henderson, a judge of the supreme court of 
the colony, but who had recently resigned out of sympa- 
thy with the Regulators, who in North Carolina were 
already lighting the fire of revolution. He conceived 
the magnificent project of founding a commonwealth 
beyond the mountains, on the model of that of William 
Penn, to which he would give the name of Transylvania. 
His scheme failed, through no fault of his own, but he 
became an extensive land proprietor, and achieved a cer- 
tain sort of celebrity among the whites as the " Treaty- 
maker,'* and among the Indians as "Slippery Dick." 
He decided upon a full exploration of his intended com- 
monwealth, and to this end employed Boone and a 
hunter named Henry Scaggins to visit the new territory. 
Boone was to penetrate into Kentucky as far north as 
the Kentucky River; Scaggins to take a route farther 
south, following the windings of the Cumberland ; and 
both were to report to Henderson before any bargain was 
consammated with the Indians. 

The two explorers set out together, in company 
with John Findley, John Stewart, and two other hunt- 

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era, on the first day of May, 1769, and with them went 
the young farmer already mentioned. He had been 
deputed by a number of his neighbors to find **good 
springs and rich lands, and enough of both to accom- 
modate them all," where they could form a community 
of friends, free from political oppression, and the in- 
solence of the " red-coated minions " of *^ the great he- 
wolf of Carolina,'' Governor Tryon. The history of 
Western civilization can not be written without fre- 
quent mention of this young farmer ; but he had at 
this time no revelation of his future, nor any higher 
aim in life than to make a home for himself, his wife 
and child, in some new region where he might acquire 
a competence, and rise, perhaps, to a position of some 
consideration in a small rural community. Therefore 
I need at present say nothing more of him than that 
his name was James Bobertson, and he was born in 
Brunswick County, Virginia, of Scotch-Irish parents, 
on the 28th of June, 1742, and that, at the age of 
twenty-five, he had married Charlotte E. Eeeves, a 
woman nine years his junior, but every way worthy to 
be his wife. This much premised, I will now go on 
with him, and the party of Boone, in his first journey 
over the AUeghanies. 

His equipment was a horse, a blanket, a hatchet, 
and a hunting-knife. Over his shoulder was slung a 
long Deckard rifle, a powder-horn, and a bag of bul- 
lets, and on the horse behind him were balanced a 
sack well filled with parched corn, a package of salt. 

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and a tin cup for drinking purposes. This was liis 
entire outfit. On the parched corn, and the game to 
be procured by his rifle, he was to subsist on his 

The party followed the trail hitherto taken by 
Boone, for there was no road, nor even a bridle-path. 
After leaving the settlements, their way led through an 
unbroken forest ; but there was no difficulty in keeping 
the trail, for it had been carefully blazed by Boone on 
his previous journeys. At night they encamped under 
some spreading tree, and, tethering their horses among 
the timber, lighted a fire with the extra flint which each 
one carried in his bullet-pouch. Their mode of light- 
ing a fire is peculiar to the backwoodsman. A handful 
of dry grass or leaves is gathered, then twisted into a 
nest, in which is placed a piece of ignited punk. Then 
the grass is closed over the punk, and the ball waved 
in the air till it breaks into a blaze, when it readily 
ignites the bundle of dry sticks with which the fire is 
kindled. The limbs of dead trees are then heaped upon 
the blaze, and one of the travelers sets about preparing 
supper for the whole party. It is probably of deer, for 
they are plenty in that region. As soon as the burning 
logs have deposited a good bed of ashes, a hole is 
scooped in them, and in it is deposited the portion of 
venison intended to be eaten, When the meat is suffi- 
ciently done, it is taken out, the ashes are knocked 
away,, and then — no civilized man, whose appetite has 
never been sharpened by open-air exposure in the woods, 

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can understand the aTiditj with which the delicions 
yiand is consumed. 

Supper over, each traveler lights his pipe of fra- 
grant " Kinnikinnick," and the evening is most likely 
whiled away in pleasant talk, and narrative of "mov- 
ing accident " by field and forest. Boone was a good 
narrator, and though but five years the senior of Robert- 
son, had already a large experience of thrilling advent- 
ure. At last, heaping fresh logs upon the fire, to keep 
up the blaze till morning, and scare away the wolves 
and panthers that might be attracted by the scent of 
the venison, the travelers would spread their blankets 
upon the ground, turn their feet to the fire, and sink 
into slumber. 

Thus they encamped by night, and journeyed by day, 
till they reached the foot of the long incline that 
stretches ta the base of the Stone Mountains — the 
northerly portion of the long range which is now the 
boundary between Tennessee and North Carolina. It is 
a good day^s journey to the summit ; so it is weU nigh 
certain that the explorers halted here, encamped for 
the night, and resumed their way in the morning. The 
path up the incline is not hard to ascend ; but when 
they came to the base of the ridge they were met by a 
huge escarpment of rocks, towering above them hun- 
dreds of feet, which seemed to bar all farther progress. 
But Boone and Findley had been that way before ; they 
knew a path the deer had traveled, and where the deer 
had led these active, strong-limbed men could follow. 

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Keeping along the base of the precipice, they soon came 
to a pass which to any but a backwoodsman would seem 
insurmountable. Here they dismounted, and, cutting 
some stout saplings to serve as Alpenstocks, began the 
toilsome ascent. Over stumps, over stones, over fallen 
trees they went, leading their sure-footed beasts by the 
bridle, and often climbing some acclivity so steep that 
they were unable to stand upright; but at last they 
reached the summit, nearly a mile above the level of 
the ocean. 

And then a view broke upon them such as Bobertson, 
accustomed as he was to the comparatively tame scenery 
of Wake County, had never beheld. Standing where 
they stood— where the swift Watauga rushes down the 
side of the mountain — we may easily picture to ourselves 
the scene that met the eyes of the explorers. Spread 
out at their feet was a beautiful valley, some 'thirty miles 
in length by twenty in width, covered with a luxuriant 
forest, broken here and there by grassy openings. In 
one of these openings — the " Watauga Old Fields " of the 
pioneers, larger than the rest, and some twenty miles 
away — two small rivers unite their currents, and flow to- 
gether to the west through a gap in the encircling mount- 
ains. Tracing their course up among the hills, the ex- 
plorers caught glimpses of numerous smaller streams 
which feed the larger ones, and water the whole of the 
enchanting region. The valley, which is itself two thou- 
sand feet above the sea, is heinmed in by huge mount- 
ain-ranges, the Holston on the north and west, and the 

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Iron and Stone Mountains on the sonth and east, which 
break into peaks — the White-Top, the Bald, and the 
Eoan — the lowest of which towers more than a mile into 
the air. These mountains protect the valley from the 
winter winds, and temper the summer breezes to a deli- 
cious coolness, making the climate the most delightful 
that can be imagined. The bottoms along the rivers are 
wide and productive, bearing then a thick crop of tall 
grass, on which multitudes of deer, elk, and buffalo were 
browsing. The soil of the bottoms is a deep, dark loam, 
capable of yielding immense crops of wheat and Indian 
corn, while the higher and less fertile land along the base 
of the mountains produces fruits of the most delicate 
flavor, and in astonishing abundance. 

Altogether the scene is picturesque beyond descrip- 
tion : a charming valley, threaded by limpid streams, and 
dotted with* dense forests of oak, pine, poplar, cherry, 
and walnut ; the whole encircled by huge sandstone 
ridges, their loftier peaks capped by the clouds, and . 
standing there grim, silent, and sublime, like giant senti- 
nels guarding the gates of an earthly paradise. Years 
afterward, speaking of this scene as it then broke upon 
him, Eobertson said, " It seemed to me the * Promised 
Land.^ " 

As the explorers prepared to descend into the valley 
they observed, a few miles away at the north, a slight 
smoke curling up from among the trees, near the banks 
of what is now known as Boone's Creek, a small tribu- 
tary of the Watauga, Was it from the encampment 

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of some Indian hunter, or the cabin of a white man, 
who had settled there since the visit of Boone five 
years before ? With the caution of old hunters they 
descended the mountain, and approached the spot 
whence the smoke issued. It was a log hut newly 
built, and around it, in the stacked com and the cattle 
browsing near, were evidences of a white inhabitant. 
He was a former comrade of Boone, his companion dur- 
ing his visit in 1760, and he had returned within the 
previous summer, and built here a home for his family. 
His name was William Bean, and he was the first white 
settler west of the Alleghanies. 

The explorers were hospitably entertained by Bean 
and his wife ; but after a few days spent in piloting Rob- 
ertson about the vaUey, Boone set out on his first long 
tramp through Kentucky. On the seventh of June his 
small party reached the Red River, the most northerly 
branch of the Kentucky ; and there Stewart was killed 
by the Indians, the first victim, so far as is known, in 
that long contest with the aborigines which gained for 
the territory south of the Ohio the name of the " dark 
and bloody ground.'' Boone escaped, but he did not 
again appear among civilized men till 1772, and then he 
once more came in contact with Robertson. 

Robertson remained behind on the Watauga, and 
was not long in deciding that he had happened upon the 
right spot for a settlement This decided on, he set 
about making preparations for the incoming settlers. 
Selecting a spot of fertile soil, he broke it up, and 

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planted a crop of cofd, enongh to carry the expected 
colonists throngli their first season ; meanwhile making 
his home with Bean^ the hospitable first settler, and 
with a hunter named Honeycut, who had erected a rude 
hut near the Watauga. 

It was autumn before his com was gathered, and the 
rainy reason had set in when he started to return to 
Korth Carolina. He had carefully husbanded his small 
stock of powder and lead, and with what remained, and 
enough parched corn and jerked venison to last, with 
the game he might kill, for ten or more days, he set out 
on his solitary homeward journey. A heavy rain soon 
came on, which drenched him completely, and, worse than 
this, wet through and through every ounce of his powder. 
Wrapping his blanket closely about him, he tried to dry 
the powder with the warmth of his naked flesh ; but all 
his efforts were unavailing — the precious grains had 
totally lost the power of ignition. 

Eeduced now to his prepared food, he pushed on with 
all speed to reach, before his supply should be exhausted, 
the settlements on the other side of the mountain. 

Along the westerly part of the route the explorers 
had neglected to blaze the way, and now, day after day, 
the sun was hidden by thick clouds ; but Eobertson had 
no difficulty so long as he could take his bearings by 
the course of the Watauga. But when he had passed 
the sources of that stream he was all at sea, with 
neither sun, nor star, nor compass to guide him. He 
scanned the heavens with anxious eye ; but they dis- 

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closed no glimpse of the blessed sun : all was mist and 
rain by day, and by night the blackest of darkness. 
Tired, drenched, bewildered, he wandered aimlessly on, 
lost, completely lost, in an almost interminable forest. 
His food, too, was fast mnning low, and the scant 
herbage still left among the trees would no longer sus- 
tain his jaded animal. Then he turued the trusty beast 
adrift to find its own way out of starvation. 

He had eked out his scanty proyisions with the nuts 
of the beech and the chestnut, but now this resource 
was exhausted; his last handful, too, of com was con- 
sumed, and he was in a region of rocks and precipices — 
probably near the western base of Yellow Mountain — 
where nothing grew that would sustain life. Then, ex- 
hausted nature could hold out no longer. His strength 
was gone ; he could not articulate above a whisper ; and, 
sinking down at the foot of a cliff, he resigned himself 
to the inevitable. 

How long he lay there he never told, and perhaps 
never knew; but at last, when his senses were nearly 
gone, he heard voices, and then approaching footsteps. 
They were two hunters — ^probably the only two human 
beings within a radius of a hundred miles. They came di- 
rectly to the spot where he was lying, but did not see him 
till actually upon him. Dismounting from their horses, 
they lifted him in their arms, revived him with some 
spirits, and then, sparingly at first, ministered to him of 
the food in their knapsacks. Slowly his strength re-^ 
turned ; but they stayed by him, and, when he was able 

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to mount, seated him on one of their horses, and 
gnided him out of the mountain, and for more than 
fifty miles on his way to the settlements. Then the 
good Samaritans went as they came, into the wide forest, 
leaving not even their names to a wondering tradition. 

Eobertson's neighbors were fascinated with the de- 
scription which he gave of the country he had explored. 
To them the sterile plains and rocky uplands of- Wake 
County lost their attractions when compared with the 
fertile valley which he pictured, and sixteen heads of 
families prepared to go with him, in the following 
spring, to a new home west of the mountains. When 
the March rains were over they set out — ^about eighty 
souls — men, women, and children. They journeyed 
slowly, the men mostly on foot, the women on pack- 
horses, with the younger children in their arms or 
strapped upon the horses behind them, and the older 
ones trudging along by the side of their fathers or aid- 
ing to drive the neat cattle, a score or more of which 
were the advance-guard of the cavalcade. The outfit of 
the party was simple. The men carried the usual equip- 
ments of the hunter ; the women some light articles of 
clothing ; and, loaded on several led horses, were such 
bedding and kitchen utensils as would be needed at the 
end of the journey. 

They followed the route taken by the explorers, 
sleeping at night on the ground, beneath the open sky, 
or sheltered by an improvised tent, made of two forked 
poles thrust into the ground, and supporting a longer 

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pole, oyer which was stretched a heavy blanket. Should 
it rain, these tents were quickly pitched, and all the trav- 
elers were soon under shelter. At the halting-place for 
the night a fire was built, the cows were milked, the 
Journey-boards unpacked, and the delicious journey-cake 
— misnamed "Johnny-cake" — was set before the fire or 
baked in the ashes. To this was added the deer or wild 
turkey shot by the men during the day ; and they had a 
repast "fit to set before a king." The same was done 
before setting out in the morning ; but at noon only a 
short halt was made for rest, and a cold lunch from the 
remains of the breakfast. 

Thus they journeyed for about ten days, until they 
reached the base of the Yellow Mountain. Here they 
struck into a deep cove which indents the mountain- 
side, and climbed by a winding route, but by easy stages, 
to the summit. Eobertson rode by the side of his wife, 
and in front was their child, now a bright little fellow of 
two or three years. Later on he will appear again in our 
pages, and then disappear forever from human history. 

As they wearily climbed the toilsome way, and 
paused to rest, as they probably did, at the summit, 
would not that young wife and mother look forward 
with a vague foreboding into the tangled wilderness that 
lay before her ? And could she have seen the hardships 
and dangers that were there — ^the rain of bullets that fell 
about her at Watauga, the frail boat that bore her a thou- 
sand miles through untold dangers into a still more dis- 
tant wilderness, and to a home encircled by savage fire. 

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by whose blackened hearth the babe at her breast would 
be laid scalped and dying at her feet — could she haye 
seen aU this, would she not hare turned back? She 
might; but still I think she would not, for Spartan 
women, as well as Spartan men, were among these first 
settlers, and one of these women was Charlotte Bobert- 

As they began the descent of the western slope of 
Stone Mountain an unexpected scene met the eyes of 
Eobertson. When he had left it in the previous autumn 
the yaUey was an almost unbroken solitude ; now the 
smoke was rising from half a score of cabins, about 
which were all the evidences of ciyilization. Men were 
plowing the fields or felling the trees, women were en- 
gaged in yarious domestic yocations, and children were 
gamboling among the trees, or watching the nimble 
squirrels as they chased one another from branch to 
branch of the lofty oaks or walnuts. Nearly half a 
hundred settlers were there, and the place was already a 
busy community. 

We may easily imagine the joy that spread through 
the settlement on the arrival of the new-comers. They 
were total strangers, but they were of the same blood, 
and their advent would make less dreary that lonely 
nook beyond the mountains. 

There was not house-room for the large influx of 
strangers, but the spring weather was mild and genial, 
and they could encamp under the spreading trees until 
half-faced cabins were erected for their temporary shel- 

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ter. These cabins were built of split saplings, one end 
resting on the ground, the other supported by a frame 
of forked poles about high enough for a man to enter 
standing upright. They were open at the front, but the 
sides and rear were covered with thick blankets, so as to 
afford shelter and privacy. Of no recognized order of 
civilized architecture, they served to keep out wind and 
rain, and under them, on blankets, or now and then on 
the precious feather-bed spread on the ground, the tired 
immigrants might sleep as soundly as the renowned 
Sancho Panza, of sleepy memory. 

Their food was supplied from the store of com so 
providently provided by Eobertson on his previous yisit, 
and from the deer, buffalo, or wild turkey brought down 
by the unerring riflemen among them. On deer and 
wild turkey they had regaled before, but buffalo meat 
was a delicacy with which they were not acquainted, and 
its rich, juicy, tender steak once tasted, all other meat 
lost half its flavor. None of them had ever even seen 
the animal, and we may imagine the wonder with which 
they first beheld the vast herds that almost darkened 
the valley. Lolling in the shade of the trees, or crop- 
ping leisurely the thick grass of the " openings," their 
coal-black beards sweeping the ground, and their long 
tails lashing their sleek, dun sides, the noble beasts gazed 
unconcernedly on the intruders, totally unconscious that 
this slender biped, with the slim, smoke-breathing tube 
he bore in his hand, was ere long to well-nigh extermi- 
nate the lordly race, and drive its scanty remnant far west 

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to the Eocky Mountains. They were an easy prey to 
the early hunter, and thus the rude larders of the first 
settlers were filled to abundance. 

Their wixes and children provided with temporary 
shelter, the immigrants looked about for locations for 
more permanent dwellings. Virginia offered to every 
actual settler who should erect a log-cabin and cultivate 
a small patch of ground, four hundred acres — so located 
as to include his improvements — together with the right 
to buy a thousand acres adjoining at a price scarcely 
more than enough to cover the cost of surveying. The 
immigrants knew they were near the North Carolina 
boundary, but they supposed they were north of the line 
which starts " at a white stake on the Atlantic Ocean, at 
north 36° 30', and runs thence west to the South Seas," 
and thus were within the limits of Virginia, and entitled 
to avail themselves of its cheap munificence — cheap be- 
cause the whole territory had been bought by George III 
from the Six Nations for a few trinkets, the total value 
of which did not exceed the cost of the wedding outfit 
of a modem lady of fashion. * 

The English had thus, when it would no longer serve 
their purpose, tacitly abandoned the discovery title, and 
admitted some sort of ownership in the original occu- 
piers of the territory. This purchase was called the 
Treaty of Fort Stanwix, and it was made at that place 
— now Home, New York — November 5, 1768 ; but it 
gave no title to land south of latitude 36° 30', which 
was the southern boundary of Virginia. All south of 

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that line was as yet conceded to be the rightful posses- 
sion of the original owners. 

This line, ** west to the South Seas," had not then 
been run farther west than the *' Steep Eock," near the 
Wbite Top Mountain. When it was subsequently ex- 
tended, the settlers found themselves within the limits 
of North Carolina, and not entitled to the benefit of the 
Virginia law. But of this more hereafter. Now they 
were unconscious of encroaching on any rights of white 
man or red, and they went on with their improvements, 
confident they were acquiring an indefeasible title to 
their new possessions. 

The settlers whom Robertson found at Watauga were 
mostly from Fairfax County, Virginia, and they had 
been attracted there by reports of the country heard 
from parties of gentlemen who had visited it on hunting 
expeditions. Like their associates from North Carolina, 
these people belonged mostly to the farming population. 
They all were somewhat unpolished in manner, and not 
much acquainted with books, but not illiterate, for, in a 
document subscribed soon*af terward by more than a hun- 
dred of them, only two names are signed with a cross. 
They brought with them but few worldly goods, but 
they had that which in a new community is more truly 
wealth — frugal and industrious habits, enterprise, firm 
self-reliance, and the cool intrepidity that is fostered by 
frequent exposure to danger. No better material could 
have been selected to subdue the Western wilderness. 

Soon the little settlement, nestling there among the 

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monntainsy presented a stirring appearance. The set- 
tlers now nnmbered^ all told, abont thirty men able to 
wield an ax or handle a rifle ; and, the locations of the 
new-comers being decided on, they all set about the 
erection of their dwellings. Trees were felled, cnt into 
logs, hewn into joist, split into flooring, and rived into 
shingles, and, in an incredibly short time, the yarioas 
families were domiciled in their new abodes. If we look 
in npon one of these cabins we shall be able to form a 
tolerably correct idea of the homes of the early settlers 
on the Watanga. 

They were generally one and a half story high, abont 
twenty feet square, and of rough logs, chamfered at the 
ends, so as to fit closely together. They had a solid plank 
door, hung on wooden hinges, and two or three small 
windows, formed by sawing through one or two of the 
outer logs. These windows were entirely open, or inclosed 
with a stout blind, and glazed with thick paper saturated 
with bear's grease to render it transparent; but the 
larger number of the cabins, if destitute of glazing, were 
furnished with blinds, as they were necessary as a protec- 
tion against intruders. The roof was covered with large 
split saplings, held down by long weight-poles, and the 
floors were puncheons — wide pieces of oak or poplar, 
two or three inches thick, split and hewn with an ax, 
and laid upon sleepers. If the hewing is well done, such 
floors are as level and smooth as if fashioned of machine- 
made material. The chimney was of sticks or stones 
laid up in clay, and it went up on the outside, in a pyram- 

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idal form^ and of a size totally disproportioned to the 
dwelling ; for these people were fond of a wide, roaring 
fire in winter, and in snmmer the huge flue was the best 
of all Tentilators. If it is added that the roof of some of 
these cabins was extended in front, so as to cover a wide 
veranda, and that the bark and moss were left clinging 
to the logs, which by another season woujd be covered 
with honeysuckles and the Virginia creeper, we shall see 
that the hamlet would soon present no unpicturesque 

The interiors need only a brief description. They 
were generally of two rooms — one below, the other above 
— approached by a ladder in a comer. The lower room 
was parlor, kitchen, and often bedroom. The fire- 
place was deep and wide, surmounted, perhaps, by a 
broad mantel of unpainted oak, on which were a few 
trinkets and the violin so precious to the backwoodsman. 
In one comer was a spinning-jenny, in another an 
tmcushioned settle, and, opposite the fire-place, a bureau 
or chest of drawers of native wood and home manufact- 
ure. These, with a small table, a few chairs with rustic 
frames and deer-skin coverings, also of home manufact- 
ure, and a couple of forked sticks nailed to one of the 
logs and supporting the trusty rifle, probably completed 
the furniture of the apartment. 

This is the description of the smaller houses. Oth- 
ers, adapted to larger families, were what were termed 
'* double-barreled " cabins, having two rooms on the 
ground-floor separated by an open passage-way, and a 

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'^ lean-to " in the rear to serve as a kitchen. Still others^ 
it may be, were like the later mansion of John Sevier — 
half a dozen single cabins, tacked one npon the other, 
and covering space enough to serve for the foundation of 
a cathedral. 

From these details we can easily form for ourselves a 
picture of the first civilized settlement beyond the Alle- 
ghanies. A score or more of these cabins were scattered, 
here and there, in the very heart of the forest, the great 
trees crowding so closely around them as often to over- 
hang their very roofs. Near them horses and cattle 
were grazing on the thick, native grass that grew 
among the trees, or housed in rude sheds at the rear of 
the dwellings ; while farther away, along the margin of 
the many streams, deer and elk and buffalo were brows- 

Glimpses of footpaths, leading from one widely sepa- 
rated dwelling to another, might be here and there seen ; 
but there were no roads, for no wheeled vehicle had yet 
invaded this sylvan solitude. These simple features 
furnish the outlines of the picture ; the details any one 
familiar with forest life can fill in from his own imagi- 

And so these people dwelt in peace, content, and 
opulence ; for this last is merely the condition of having 
something more than enough, and this they had in 
abundance. They were aflBlicted with no artificial wants, 
drank no tea, coffee, or ardent spirits, and ate no wheat- 
bread nor delicate food, but were content with spring- 

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water, " corn-dodger," bear's meat, buffalo-tongue, veni- 
son saddle, and venison ham — ^broiled, stewed, fried, and 
jerked — and, as a great delicacy, green-corn roasted and 
coated with sugar from the sap of the maple-tree. The 
women cared nothing for the latest fashions, but, like 
their husbands, dressed in homespun of their own spin- 
ning and weaving, and deemed a house full of rosy sons 
and daughters the best of earthly possessions. They were 
not " lay figures " to exhibit some milliner^s or jeweler's 
stock in trade, but actual "helps meet for their hus- 
bands." They shared the good man's cares, lightened 
his labors, and spread daily joy over his rustic house- 
hold. And the men were a manly race — honest, open- 
handed, fearless, independent. Open-air exercise gave 
them health, and, there being ample room for all, the ad- 
vent of a new-comer was welcomed as adding to the gen- 
eral security. There was among them none of that 
small envy and jealousy which contributes so largely to 
human misery, particularly in older rural communities. 

There was no end to their social gatherings. The men 
came together for the bear-hunt, the deer-drive, the 
shooting-match, and for foot and horse racing ; and 
men and women met at quilting-bees, corn-shuckings, 
maple-sugar stirrings, and the old-fashioned dancing 
"shindies," when the fiddle would twang merrily into 
the small hours, and the lads and lasses would "dance all 
night till broad daylight." Many a rustic heart was lost 
and won on such occasions, and at the " stirrings-off " in 
the sugar-camps, which were great gatherings in the 

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woods, when the sirup had been boiled down to a consist- 
ence to allow it to be " stirred-off '* into sngar. Then 
many a rustic youth, sitting on a log beside a blue-eyed 
or raven-haired lass, would, in words sweeter than the 
honeyed sirup — 

" Strive hard to persnade her, 

That He who bad made her, 
Had destined her heart-love for no one bat he ; 

And he argued so neatly, 

And proved so completely 
That none bat poor Andrew her hasband sboold be ; 

That sLe smiled when he blessed ber, 

And blushed when be kissed her, 
And owned that she loved, and woold wed none but he." 

It was a simple state of society, but it was a happy 
one. There was no law, nor was there need of any, for 
there was not a lawyer in the whole community. Every 
man did what was right in his own eyes, but crime was a 
thing unknown among them. Every man also was the 
equal of every other man. There were no artificial dis- 
tinctions. Good feeling, natural civility, and sterling 
qualities of head and heart were the passports to social 
consideration. Without them a man would be friend- 
less, and to say that of him, in a society of mutual good- 
will and fellowship, was equivalent to calling him a 
scoundrel. It was the height of indignity to omit to 
ask a neighbor to a raising, a clearing, or a chopping 
fi'olic. "It is a poor dog that is not worth whist- 
ling for," said a neighbor who was not invited to a 

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house-raising going on in the neighborhood. "What in- 
jury have I done that I am slighted so ? " 

This was the state of things among the first settlers 
on the Watauga, while there was as yet not a church nor 
a school-house among them, and before one of that grand 
race of men, who carried their homes in their saddle-bags, 
and their libraries under their broad-brimmed white 
beavers — the Methodist circuit-riders — had climbed the 
Alleghanies. The settlers had a few books, among 
which were the Bible, Watt's and Eippon's Hymns, Dil- 
worth's Spelling Book, Fox's "Book of Martyrs/' 
"Eobinson Crusoe," and the "Pilgrim's Progress" ; and 
these Eobertson was fond of reading to the people 
around the evening fire, particularly the Bible. From 
this book he often quoted in ordinary conversation, his 
favorite text being, " Man proposes, but God disposes," 
which saying of Thomas k Kempis, he always insisted, is 
to be found somewhere in the book of Job. Writing- 
paper was so scarce a commodity among them, that im- 
portant contracts were often written on the fly-leaf of a 
family Bible, and with ink made of gunpowder. 

Before long the settlers numbered about two hundred 
souls, and forty able-bodied men ; but they were shut 
out from the civilized world by a high mountain barrier, 
and surrounded on every other side by at least a hundred 
thousand savages, who were by nature and instinct the 
enemies of the white man. Both North Carolina and 
Virginia claimed jurisdiction over them ; but the claim 
never extended beyond some slight discussion in state 

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papers, and neither colony afforded them any protection. 
They were absolutely self-dependent, an unsupported 
outpost on the yery rerge of civilization. How this 
handful of men, women, and children came to yenture 
upon such dangerous ground, or, being there, escaped total 
extermination, is one of the miracles of history. They 
realized their exposed position, and understood the na- 
ture of the North American Indian, but they went cheer- 
fully about their daily pursuits — ^tilling the soil, plant- 
ing, and harvesting, and ^^ gathering into bams," or, more 
correctly, into ricks, for as yet they had no barns — unmo- 
lested by the Indians, and in harmony with one another, 
for two full years of genuine -peace, comfort, and 

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Having now prepared the stage, it is time for the 
prompter to ring up the curtain and call upon it the 
actors who are to take parts in this first scene of the 
great drama which is to be enacted iu the wilderness. 
The theatre is only a bam, and the performers are 
merely a band of strollers, but the spectator will soon 
see that they are great actors, and the play the first act 
in a grand drama that may not be played out for centu- 
ries — not, at least, until civilization shall have overspread 
the whole vast continent west of the Alleghanies. 

By that silent suffrage, according to which every man 
is speedily elected to his true place in a new community, 
the young farmer, Eobertson, was soon given the lead- 
ing position in the Watauga settlement There were 
older men than he among the settlers, and those better 
bred and better educated, but it soon came to be under- 
stood that he possessed the qualities that peculiarly fitted 
him for leadership ; and so he was tacitly recognized as 
the head man in the little community, and looked up to 
and obeyed accordingly. 

He was at this time not quite thirty years of age. 

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Hifl personal appearance at a later date is described by an 
aged granddaughter, writing more than a century after- 
ward, as follows: *^He was,*' she writes, "about five 
feet nine inches in height, heavy built, but not too fat. 
His head inclined slightly forward, so that his light-blue 
eyes were usually shaded by his heavy eyebrows. His 
hair was very dark — ^like a mole in color — ^and his com- 
plexioD, though naturally very fair, was darkened and 
reddened by exposure. I remember him as being uncom- 
monly quiet and thoughtful, and full of the cares of 
business. We all loved and venerated him." * 

From other sources I gather that, at this earlier pe- 
riod, his frame was robust, well-knit, and wiry, but not 
what would be termed "heavy built"; and that he 
had prominent features, and a square, full forehead, 
which rose in the coronal region into an almost abnormal 
development; also, that he was earnest, taciturn, self- 
contained, and had that quiet consciousness of power 
which is usually seen in bom leaders of men. Yet his 
manner was without arrogance or self-assumption. On 
the contrary, he was extremely courteous and concilia- 
tory, with that rare blending of self-respect and defer- 
ence to others which repels undue familiarity, but, at 
the same time, wins friendship, and puts the rudest at 
his ease. Oconostota, who was a shrewd observer of 
men, and for twenty-five years Eobertson's inveterate 
enemy, said of him, "He has winning ways, and he 

* Mm. Cheatham, of Na&hviUe, Tennessee, 1880. 

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makes no fuss." Adding merely that he was cool, care- 
ful of consequences, and watchful of danger, but also 
bold, fearless, and ever ready to undertake enterprises 
that would stagger men of fewer mental resources, I will 
leave his character to further develop itself as he acts his 
part in this history. 

Eobertson had no official position, for as yet the little 
community had no civil organization, and, consequent- 
ly, he had all the cares and responsibilities with none of 
the emoluments and perquisites which modern politi- 
cians regard as such important adjuncts to official station. 
And, worse than this, his private purse was constantly 
drained by his public position, for he was forced to keep 
open house to the throng of strangers who constantly 
came to the settlement, either to make it their home, or 
to view with curious interest the eyrie of this lone eagle 
that had thus built his nest on the outer cliffs of the 
overhanging Alleghanies. Therefore it was that Bobert- 
son's house, on the upper end of the island in the Wa- 
tauga, near what is now Elizabethtown, though of logs 
like the others, was by far the most commodious dwell- 
ing in the settlement. To this house there rode up one 
day, in 1772 — ^hot quite two years after Eobertson had 
led his colony over the mountains — ^three horsemen, each 
of whom was to act a more or less important part in 
Western history. They were all strangers to Eobertson, 
but, with true border hospitality, he invited them to dis- 
mount and enter his dwelling. While they do so, I will 
give as full a description of them as I have been able 

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to gather from some scanty written aceonnts and num- 
berless oral traditions. 

The oldest was a man rather more than fifty years of 
age, with a robust But sinewy frame, and an erect mili- 
tary carriage. He had thick gray hair and heayy Welsh 
features — ^in fact, he was a native Welshman, but he 
came to this country so early in life that he had fully 
acquired the language and habits of the men of the bor- 
der. His military career of thirty years had given him 
a stern, imperious manner, which cropped out on all 
occasions, and was strikingly shown, two years later, 
when he said to the son who was now with him, as the 
young man sat down to wait while his commission as 
lieutenant was being written by Colonel William Preston, 
the commandant of Fincastle County, "Get up, you 
young dog, and make your obeisance to the colonel ! " 
He had been a prominent actor iu the old French and 
Indian wars, and was well and widely known throughout 
the Southern colonies. In these halcyon days of peace 
he had laid aside his military rank, and he was now, with 
his four manly boys, extensively engaged in the herding 
and grazing of cattle on the Virginia border, some forty 
miles to the north of Watauga, at a place called King's 
Meadows, now Bristol, Tennessee. He was Captain 
Evan Shelby, of the Virginia line, subsequently General 
Shelby, of the Revolutionary army. 

His eldest son, now with him, was the counterpart of 
the father, though built upon a larger scale both in body 
and mind. He had the same herculean frame, the same 

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firm, compressed lips, double chin, and heavy features, 
but in his fixed, deep-set, resolute eye there was a steady 
glow that spoke a much more exalted character. He 
was now barely turned of twenty-one, but he had already 
established a character for uncommon intelligence, and 
stem, unbending integrity, that had made him to be 
looked upon as a rising man upon the border. I shall 
haye to speak of him again, for this was Isaac Shelby, 
one of the heroes of King's Mountain, and the first Gov- 
ernor of Kentucky. 

But in the third stranger this history has a deeper 
interest. He was a young man of only twenty-six, and 
had not yet achieved any especial distinction, but he was 
of a personal appearance so marked that he would have 
been observed and commented on in any gathering of 
men on the continent. Often afterward he was singled 
out in crowds of five thousand, by total strangers, who 
had merely been told that he was present. He was not 
so large of frame as the others, but one glance was enough 
to show that he was of a different and far higher type of 
character. He is said to have weighed not far from one 
hundred and fifty pounds, and to have been about five 
feet eleven inches in height, and of a most symmetrical, 
well-knit figure. His carriage was erect, his step rapid, 
his movements quick and energetic, and his bearing, 
though without a trace of haughtiness, . peculiarly com- 
manding. He had light hair, a fair skin, a ruddy com- 
plexion, and large dark-blue eyes, singularly expressive 
of vivacity, good feeling, and fearlessness. They were 

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clear and mild, and yet stern and piercing — living flames^ 
which, when stirred by excitement, actually blazed and 
danced with the emotion that moved him. They 
gleamed from under an arching eyebrow and a peculiarly 
white and lofty forehead, which, with a prominent nose, 
gave dignity to his face, despite the uncommon ease and 
geniality of his manner. He had strong, resolute jaws, 
and a mouth and chin of chiseled perfection. But the 
thing about him which first attracted attention was a 
strange blending of unconscious natural dignity with 
overflowing good feeling, combined with a sort of mag- 
netic force that drew every one irresistibly to him. I 
question if, with but one or two exceptions, he ever had 
a personal enemy. He wore the ordinary hunting-shirt 
of the border, but it was scrupulously neat and well-fit- 
ting. However, in any costume he would appear, what 
he was, a bom gentleman ; for there was good blood in 

It is the custom of biographers to begin with a man's 
ancestors, for the purpose, I suppose, of deducting from 
his own value whatever may belong to his progenitors. 
And yet, however much their virtues may detract from 
our own merit, we are all proud if we have been so for- 
tunate as to have had a reputable ancestry. We all 
have this weakness, and all like to trace, if we can, our 
genealogical tree down to its roots in the dark ages. 
The search may be rewarded by our finding some single 
ancestor of whom to be justly proud, but very few of 
us discover a whole township, as was the case with the 

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yonng gentleman I am describing. He was neyer known 
to boast of his lineage, and probably few men could bet- 
ter afford to dispense with an ancestry, yet he never 
wrote his name without patting on record that he was 
descended from the town of Xavier, in the French Pyre- 
nees, and thus was of kin to the eminent Saint Francis 
of Xayier. This was the name of his ancestors, and 
they bore it till, being Huguenots, they had to flee from 
France on the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Then 
they settled in London, and the name became Anglicized 
into Sevier. 

The father of this young gentleman emigrated to 
America about 1740, and, marrying a lady of Baltimore, 
settled in Eockingham County, Virginia, where this son 
was born on the 23d of September, 1745. He was given 
as good an education as was common to the period, but 
throughout life he understood men better than he did 
books. His state papers indicate considerable reading, 
but the knowledge of men came to him by intuition. I 
have in my possession a letter written by him to James 
Madison, in 1804, which bears every mark of being penned 
by a man of cultivation. It is very clearly, tersely, and 
pointedly expressed, and written in a free, round, flow- 
ing hand, and with a firm, rapid, open movement that 
entirely accords with his character. He early showed a 
predilection for military life, and so distinguished him- 
self in the frequent conflicts with the Indians as to at- 
tract the attention of Lord Dunmore, the last royal Gov- 
ernor of Virginia, who made him, before he was twenty- 

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five, a captain in the Virginia line — the same rank held 
by his friend Evan Shelby, who had seen thirty years' 
service, and was twenty-five years his senior. It was in 
the same corps that Washington then held the rank of 

This young man had now come West to establish a 
new home for his wife and two young sons at what was 
then known as Keywood Settlement, farther to the north, 
and about six miles distant from the Shelbys. This was 
his first meeting with Robertson. I do not know that 
the two were then conscious — as were Jeremiah and Paul, 
and some other *' providential men "—that they had been 
"set apart from their mother's womb" to do an impor- 
tant work in the world ; but it is certain that they had 
no sooner looked into each other's eyes than they recog- 
nized the fact that their work — whatever it was — would 
be done together. And so it was. From this time for- 
ward, they stood shoulder to shoulder, amid toil and 
danger and hardship, through evil report and good re- 
port, never losing faith or hope or trust, one in the 
other, till they went together to a higher life forty-three 
years afterward, amid such genuine sorrow as has sel- 
dom afflicted a whole commonwealth. Others, like the 
Shelbys, were to act important parts; but these two 
men were to be the great actors in the grand drama of 
civilization which was to be played beyond the AUegha- 
nies ; and the greater of the two was this buoyant, free- 
hearted young stranger from Virginia. 

For this was John Sevier, the Nolichucky Jack of 

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the border; the Nemesis of old Oconostota; the most 
renowned of Indian fighters ; the hero of thirty-fiye 
battles, every one of which was a victory ; the dashing 
leader, whose sword was to flash wherever the fight 
was hottest, and whose electric words, sounding in 
the desperate charge, were to set his men on fire, 
and transform the most timid among them into heroes. 
More than this, he was to be the Eear-Guard of the 
Eevolution, and was to give a deadly wonnd to the 
anaconda the British would seek to coil about the re- 
volted colonies ; and, when peace should at last return, 
it was he who would bring order out of chaos, fashion 
restless frontiersmen into law-abiding citizens, and, out 
of the most heterogeneous materials, erect a great com- 
monwealth in the very heart of the wilderness. His 
exploits will read more like romance than history ; but 
they were the natural outgrowth of the man, who was 
altogether patriotic, magnanimous, heroic. Isaac Shelby 
was a born soldier, Eobertson a born diplomatist ; but 
Sevier was soldier, diplomatist, and statesman all com-^ 
bined; and, moreover, he was the very incarnation of 
the spirit of the backwoods of that period. He gathered 
up and embodied in himself all the great qualities of 
that grand race of men who were the pioneers of West- 
ern civilization. Every frontiersman saw in him those 
traits which, in his own best and highest moods, he felt 
within himself ; and in him he beheld them intensified, 
magnified, and in amazing activity ; and so Nolichucky 
Jack became his ideal and his natural leader, and he 

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responded to his lightest word^ jast as the hand oheys 
the dictates of the will ; and hence it is do mere fignre 
of speech to say that Sevier was the soul of the West- 
ern commonwealth. Had this man acted on a wider 
and more open stage^ he would long ago have been reck- 
oned among the world's heroes. But nowadays we do 
not judge of an actor by the size of his thcDatre. Silent 
forces are those that disintegrate the mountains ; and at 
the distance of a century we are able to estimate men 
by what they accomplish. So estimating these men and 
their work, we see that, since the landing of the Pil- 
grims on Plymouth Rock, few more important events 
had yet occurred in the interest of civilization than the 
coming together of Sevier and Robertson in that log- 
cabin on the Watauga. 

What passed between the two men on this occasion 
I have no means of knowing, but it is certain that from 
this hour Sevier turned his back upon all prospects of 
wealth and distinction in the older settlements, and cast 
in his lot with that feeble community beyond the 

During this visit of Sevier and the Shelbys at 
Watauga, a trifling incident occurred which had im- 
portant consequences. Gamblers and horse-thieves were 
the pests of the border. One of these gentry, a stout, 
savage fellow named Shoate, was then at Watauga ; and 
pretending that he had won a horse from a peaceable 
stranger in a wager, he took forcible possession of the 
animal in the public thoroughfare. The occurrence was 

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witnessed by the yisitors ; and, naturally indignant, 
Seyier inquired if there was no law in the community. 
"Never mind the rascal," said Evan Shelby; "he'll 
soon take poplar" — ^meaning that he would soon decamp 
by a "dug-out" made from that timber. He did ; and 
it is a comfort to know that he was hanged some seven 
years later for a similar outrage. 

The attempted theft of this horse led to the forma- 
tion of a government for the new settlement. The set- 
tlers were called together at the house of Eobertson, and, 
being addressed by him and Sevier, proceeded at once 
to appoint a committee of thirteen to draft articles for 
the regulation of their public affairs. From these thir- 
teen five were chosen to form a court, and act as judges, 
and by them — ^in the language of their Magna Charta 
— " all things were to be settled " ! Truly, a court of 
wider jurisdiction than any since organized in this 
country. This rude bench was composed of John Se- 
vier, James and Charles Eobertson, Zachariah Isbell, and 
John Carter, names, all of them, that afterward attained 
prominence in the history of Tennessee. Sevier was the 
youngest man among them. Speaking of this court in 
a memorial addressed to the Legislature of North Caro- 
lina four years later, Sevier writes : " Finding our- 
selves on the frontiers, and being apprehensive that, 
for the want of a proper Legislature, we might become 
a shelter for such as endeavored to defraud their credi- 
tors ; considering also the necessity of recording deeds, 
wills, and doing other public business ; we, by consent 

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of the people, formed a court for the purposes aboye 
mentioned, taking — by desire of our constituents — 
the Virginia laws for our guide, so near as the situa- 
tion of affairs would admit. This was intended for 
ourselves, and was done by the consent of eyery indi- 
yidual ; but, whenever we have had to deal with people 
out of our district, we have ruled them to bail, to 
abide by our determinations (which was, in fact, leaving 
the matter to reference) ; otherwise we dismissed their 
suit, lest we should in any way intrude on the Legisla- 
tures of the colonies." 

This simple government, thus established, secured 
good order in the new community for several years fol- 
lowing. It was organized in May, 1772, three years prior 
to the association formed for Kentucky "under the great 
elm-tree outside the fort at Boonesboro " ; and thus was 
the first really "free and independent*' government in 
this country. Its originator, framer, and prime mover 
was John Sevier. 

Sevier at once built a house on the Watauga — ^a ram- 
bling log structure of half a dozen rooms, all upon the 
ground-floor— and soon afterward he removed to it with 
his wife and two sons, James and John, who afterward 
fought by his side at King's Mountain. Accompany- 
ing his family from Virginia came his father, Valen- 
tine Sevier, now a man of about fifty-five, and his three 
younger sons, Valentine, Jr., Abraham, and Sobert, 
of whom more will have to be said further on in this 

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The coming of the Seviers gave a strong impetus to 
the growth of the new settlement. It had hitherto cir- 
cled around Watauga, but, like a mountain-stream ob- 
structed for a time by some casual obstacle, its gathering 
waters now burst their barriers, and overflowed the coun- 
try in all directions — north to what is still known as Car- 
ter's Station, south to the NoUchucky, and as far west 
as Chimney-Top Mountain. The more remote settlers 
were in an exposed position — almost alone, with beyond 
them a wide wilderness — ^but they were in no fear from 
the Cherokees. The few who came to the settlements 
were friendly, and, after eating the settler's yenison and 
smoking his tobacco, they would go away, gi;asping his 
hand, and saying : " We are the white man^s brothers ; 
the same house holds us, the same sky covers us. We 
are brothers." 

These were halcyon days : but once on a time Satan 
entered into paradise ; and one day, in the summer of 
1772, one of his legitimate children, a Scotchman named 
Alexander Cameron, invaded this Eden on the Watauga. 
He was a subordinate of John Stuart, the British super- 
intendent of Soutberu Indian aff9>irs, and was then the 
resident agent among the Cherokees. He appeared at 
Watauga with a number of the Cherokee chieftains, and 
warned the settlers that they had encroached upon the 
Indian lands, and must move off or be removed by the 
British soldiery. However, he whispered to Sevier and 
Robertson — out of hearing of the more manly Cherokees 
— ^that for a reasonable consideration paid to him, the 

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representative of the British Goyernment, they would be 
permitted to remain unmolested. 

Unfortunately, Cameron was right. The settlers 
were outside of the territory ceded to King George by 
the Six Nations at Fort Stanwix. They had scarcely 
more knowledge of geography than Charles II, and were 
totally ignorant of the location of that line of 36® 30' 
which journeyed westward to the " South Seas.'* It ran 
due west, cutting remorselessly through hills and mount- 
ains, utterly regardless of the topography of the country, 
while they had followed the course of the streams and 
yalleys, all of which trend to the southwest, never dream- 
ing that they were straying beyond the limits of Virginia. 
Nearly all of them, even Robertson, were natives of that 
province, and they had the State pride which is to be ob- 
served in Virginians even at this day; and, moreover, 
they had no very devoted attachment for North Caro- 

This feeling explains much of the subsequent history 
of the Watauga settlers. They never felt any real affec- 
tion for North Carolina, but always regarded her as a 
sort of step-mother, which, indeed, she proved to be, giv- 
ing them no care in their infancy, and in their youth 
demanding a mother's rights, but fulfilling none of her 
duties. It was not Nature, but a chain and compass, 
that made these people North Carolinians. It was, 
therefore, with scarcely less chagrin that they now 
learned they had unwittingly expatriated themselves 
from the Old Dominion than that they were intruders 

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on the lands of the Cherokees — ^which they certainly 
were, for Colonel John Donelson, father to Mrs. Andrew 
Jackson, had been recently employed by Lord Dunmore 
to run the line of 36° 30', and had found it thirty miles 
to the northward. 

It was an awkward dilemma in which the settlers 
found themselves, but Sevier and Bobertson met it man- 
fully. They wasted no time in considering the overtures 
of the rascally British agent, but promptly declined 
his proposals. He stormed and threatened, but they 
turned their backs upon him, scorning to purchase se- 
curity by bribery. Speaking in later years of these cor- 
rupt overtures, Eobertson said : *^ This was the best 
thing ever done [to us] by the British Government. 
Never were threats so harmless and yet so powerful ; 
they were laughed to scorn. No man feared them out 
here, whatever they might have done in old Orange and 
in Wake. From a hatred to Tryon, and a contempt for 
the Indian agent, the people were easily conducted to 
the cherishing of both sentiments for the king, their 
royal master, as he was called : he was no longer ours.** 

Some of the chieftains who were present expressed a 
reluctance to seeing the order of the British agent en- 
forced, and all were willing the settlers should remain if 
they made no further encroachments; but Sevier and 
Bobertson were not content to occupy their homes by a 
title so precarious as the word of a few Cherokee warriors. 
By a proclamation dated October 7, 1763, George III 
had "strictly enjoined and required that no private per- 

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sons do presume to purchase from the Indians any 
lands" ; and that^ '^if the Indians should be inclined to 
dispose of their lands^ the same shall be purchased only 
for us, in our name, at some general meeting or assembly 
of the Indians, to be held for that purpose by the goy- 
emor or commander-in-chief of our colony respectiyely." 
So the Watauga settlers could not buy their homes if 
they would, bat the sapient king had not forbidden the 
leasing of lands from the Indians. This Seyier and Rob- 
ertson decided to do, leaying to the future the acquiring 
of their homes in fee simple. Accordingly, they re- 
quested the yisiting chieftains to call together the head 
men of the tribe for a friendly council at the ** Watauga 
Old Fields." 

At a time appointed they came, six hundred half- 
naked red-men, from the Tellico, the Tennessee, and eyen 
the mountains of Georgia ; and the whole white settle- 
ment gathered together to meet them — in all, perhaps, 
one hundred men, with all the women and children in 
the near-by plantations. They were a picturesque group 
as they gathered under a great oak-tree that then stood 
on the southern bank of the Watauga, the whites in caps 
of tanned bear-skin, hunting-shirts, and cayalry-boots, 
and the Indians in buckskin hunting-shirts, leggins, and 
moccasins, their heads ornamented with coon's tails, or 
turkey or eagle's feathers, and some of them wearing 
a red sash around their waist and gilt epaulets upon 
their shoulders. For the head men of the tribe were 
among them : the gigantic Oconostota, the archimagus, 

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his bare breast seamed with scars, and his right leg dis- 
abled by an awkward limp, which had given him among 
the white people — who had already lost their reverence 
for royalty — the name of Old Hop ; the silver-tongued 
Atta-Culla-CuUa, the vice-king ; Savanuca, the prince of 
Echota, called the raven, for his keenness on the war- 
scent, but to become the friend of peace and Robertson ; 
the Bloody Fellow, who had won his name by appropriate 
deeds; the Bread-Slave Catcher, noted for his success 
in stealing negroes, who had taught the Indian women 
to make bread ; Noonday, a wide-awake young fellow ; 
John Watts, a promising young half-breed, who after- 
ward achieved eminence in slaughtering white people; 
and Old Tassell, a wise and reasonably just old man, 
subsequently archimagus, but destined to an ignominious 
end from the blind vengeance of a white stripling. 

These and others of the princes of the tribe gathered 
in a circle about Robertson and Sevier, and listened in 
grave silence to the proposals of the settlers. Robertson 
was the speaker ; for Sevier, who could talk as well as act, 
was young, and as yet merely "the power behind the 
throne." They demanded a ten years' lease of all the 
lands on the Watauga and its tributaries, and they of- 
fered in pay between five and six thousand dollars' worth 
of powder, lead, muskets, cotton-goods, and other arti- 
cles of value to the Indians. The Cherokees were sharp 
at a bargain. Oconostota was satisfied with the consid- 
eration, but he insisted upon cutting down the term of 
occupation to eight years. To this the whites assented ; 

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and then the treaty was drawn up and signed by all the 
head men of the nation. The price was then paid nj)on 
the spot — ^which is evidence that there was some avail- 
able wealth among the settlers — and then the council 
broke up^ and all^ white men and red^ engaged in a few 
days of friendly festivity. Dances, ball-plays, and foot- 
races were improvised, in which the young men of both 
nations joined in good-natured rivalry, and it was 
hoped by the settlers that all possibility of hostile collis- 
ion with their dangerous neighbors was removed to an 
indefinitely distant period. But this dream was soon 
rudely dispelled by a most unfortunate and inopportune 

For the last day of the gathering it had been ar- 
ranged that a great foot-race should take place between 
the younger braves and the young men of the settle- 
ment, on the open ground along the southern bank of 
the river. The race was in full progress, and among the 
younger men all was mirth, hilarity, and good-natured 
emulation ; and even the older chieftains, catching the 
spirit of the occasion, had relaxed from their habitual 
gravity, and were cheering on the contestants, when sud- 
denly, a musket-shot echoed over the grounds, and one 
of the young braves, the near kinsman of a chieftain, fell 
in 'his tracks lifeless. The report came from the woods 
near the race-ground, and pursuit failed to discover the 
assassin, but there could be no question that he was a 
white man. 

It was as if the shot had been fired into a magazine of 

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gunpowder. The Cherokees were there without arms, or 
there might have followed a bloody tragedy. As it was 
they silently gathered their goods together, and, with 
threatening gestures and laces presaging a bloody yen- 
geance, rapidly stole away into the forest. 

It was subsequently discovered that the murderer was 
a young man named Crabtree, from the Wolf Hills (now 
Abingdon), Virginia, about fifty miles to the northeast. 
A brother of his had, not long before, been killed by the 
Shawnees, while engaged in exploring with Boone in 
Kentucky, and he had taken this inopportune time for 
his revenge. 

The Indians had left hastily, giving the whites no 
time for explanation or parley. Eevenge — blood for 
blood — ^was the cardinal doctrine of their theology, and 
if something were not at once done to avert it, war, 
bloody and exterminating, would soon be upon the set- 
tlers. And what could be done to avert it ? To flee the 
country would be to merely invite pursuit, and a hun- 
dred miles of wilderness lay between them and any safe 
asylum. To remain was just as hazardous, for how 
could this handful of one hundred men sustain a conflict 
with three thousand infuriated savages ? 

Hastily the settlers gathered together in council, and 
then it was that Robertson volunteered, like CurtiusjHo 
ride into the breach — at the peril of his life to visit, and 
endeavor to pacify, the enraged Cherokees. It was a 
hundred and fifty miles through an unbroken forest, with 
death lurking behind every tree that grew by the way ; 

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but what, he said, was one life periled to save fire hun- 
dred ? Thus Robertson reasoned with his neighbors and 
friends ; and then, giving a parting kiss to his wife and 
child, he mounted his horse and rode oflE into the wilder- 

His route lay over the great Indian war-path, which 
led from the Valley of Virginia, in a southwesterly direc- 
tion, to the Cherokee towns on the Little Tennessee, fol- 
lowing pretty nearly the course now taken by the East 
Tennessee and Georgia Railroad. Robertson, however, 
would turn aside from it at the junction of the Little 
Tennessee and Tellico, and visit the capital town, 
Echota, which I have already described, for here dwelt 
Oconostota, and here no doubt was now in session the 
great council, deliberating upon the fate of the white 
settlers. Along the route were traces of the hurried 
passage of the six hundred warriors only two days be- 
fore ; but Robertson encountered no one till about noon 
on the second day, when he suddenly espied a white man, 
coming toward him heavily armed, and finely mounted. 
Each halted to reconnoitre the other for a few moments ; 
and then^ihe stranger, uttering a pleasurable exclama- 
tion, rode forward and grasped the hand of Robertson. 
He was the Indian trader, Isaac Thomas, whom I have 
mentioned as having been saved from the Tellico massa- 
cre twelve years before. Ho was living at Echota, and 
had been sent by the Indian prophetess to Watauga, to 
warn the settlers of their danger. He knew Robertson, 
and told him of his errand ; and then the two concluded 

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that he had better turn about and escort Robertson to 
the Cherokee headquarters. 

This man, Isaac Thomas, on account of his services to 
the colonists at this time, and during the Revolution, is 
deserving of particular mention. He belonged to a class 
who were quite numerous upon the border, and of much 
importance in the early history of the country. Of ne- 
cessity well acquainted with the various avenues leading 
to the Indian territory, and with the state of feeling 
among the savages, and passing frequently between the 
Indian towns and the white settlements, they were often 
able to warn the whites of intended attacks, and to guide 
such hostile parties as invaded the Indian country. 
Though generally natives of STorth Carolina and Vir- 
ginia, and known to be in sympathy with the colonists, 
they were, if prudent of speech and behavior, allowed to 
remain unmolested in the Indian towns, even when the 
warriors were shouting the war-song and brandishing the 
war-club on the eve of an intended attack on the settle- 
ments. The reason of this was, that traffic with them was 
of ^eat advantage to the Indian ; for, with the trap or 
rifle that he could get from the trader for a few skins, he 
could secure more game in a day than his bow and arrow, 
or rude '* dead-fall," would procure in a month of toil- 
some hunting. The traders were, therefore, held in 
high esteem by the Indians ; and the Cherokees encour- 
aged their living and even marrying among them. In 
fact, such alliances were deemed highly honorable, and 
were often sought by the daughters of distinguished chief- 



tains. Consequently, among the trader's other chattels 
would often be found a dusky mate, and half a dozen 
half-breed children ; and this, too, when he already had 
a wife and family somewhere in the settlements. 

This, however, was not the case with the trader we 
hare now under notice. He was at this time a bachelor, 
though he died the father of a large and highly respect- 
able family in Sevier County, Tennessee. He is said to 
have been a native of Virginia, and at this time about 
forty years of age. He is described as being over six feet 
in height, straight, strong-limbed, and wiry, and with a 
frame so steeled by twenty years of forest-life that he 
could endure almost any conceivable hardship. His feat- 
ures are said to have been strongly marked, but regular, 
and to have worn an habitual expression of comic grav- 
ity; but on occasions his dark, deep-set eye had been 
known to light up with a look of unconquerable pluck 
and determination. He wore leggins, moccasins, and 
hunting-shirt of buckskin ; and from long exposure his 
face, neck, and hands had become tanned to the color of 
that material. His cool intrepidity had been shown on 
many occasions ; and this quality, together with his im- 
mense strength, secured him great respect among the 
Cherokees, who, like all uncivilized people, set a high 
value on personal courage and mere physical prowess. 
It is related that, shortly before the Tellico massacre, he 
interfered in a feud between two Cherokee braves, who 
had drawn their tomahawks to hew each other in pieces. 
Having wrenched the weapons from their hands, both set 

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upon him, and he cooled their heated ralor by lifting one 
after the other into the air and tossing him into the 
Tellico. One of those braves subsequently saved his life 
at the massacre near Fort Loudon. 

It was fortunate for Robertson that he encountered 
this man, for it secured him safe-conduct and access to 
the Cherokee chieftains at Echota. It was after dark 
when they entered the long avenue which was the only 
street in the town. They had been met by a young 
brave before reaching the precincts of the sacred city, 
and him they had dispatched to apprise Oconostota of 
the coming of Robertson. The answer was that the chief 
of the pale-faces was welcome, and Oconostota would 
give him audience on the morrow, when the great coun- 
cil of the nation would be in session. 

Robertson repaired for the night to the house of 
Thomas — a one-and-a-half-story log-cabin, containing 
the trader's stock of traps, guns, powder and lead, hatch- 
ets, looking-glasses, " stroud," beads, scarlet cloth, and 
trinkets, articles of small cost, but highly prized by the 
red-man. The incidents bt this heroic visit have been 
handed down from father to son among the descendants 
of Robertson ; but I shall venture to relate only so many 
of them as have been authenticated to me by two or 
three independent narrations. Tradition states that 
early on the following day the Indians from the near-by 
settlements began to pour into Echota, till, by an hour 
before noon, fully twelve hundred had gathered in the 
open space around the council-house. They were all in 

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war-paint, and armed as if to go upon the war-path, and 
the lowering looks they east upon Robertson, as he sat in 
the doorway of the trader's cabin, spoke plainly of a gen- 
eral feeling of hostility to the white settlers. Eyidently 
the war-spirit of the tribe was aroused, and it would be a 
miracle if Robertson averted the storm that was impend- 
ing. As the sun touched the meridian, a young braye 
came to the house of Thomas, and announced that the 
great chief of the Gherokees was seated in the midst of 
his warriors, and would listen to the chief of the pale- 

With much ceremony Robertson was ushered into the 
council-house, where some sixty of the chieftains were 
collected. The larger number occupied the seats ranged 
around the circumference of the room, but about a dozen 
of the head men, or princes, of the tribe were seated in 
a circle on the ground in the center of the apartment.. 
Among them were those Robertson had met at Watauga, 
and, as he was sorry to see. Dragging Canoe, head chief- 
tain of the Ghickamaugas, a turbulent and bloodthirsty 
warrior, who had absented himself from the council with 
the whites, and refused to be a party to the lease of 
land to the settlers. They all were arrayed in the high- 
est style of Cherokee half-nakedness, and most of them 
were of such herculean proportions that, standing among 
them, Robertson seemed but as a pygmy among giants. 
Only one of them — Atta-Culla-Culla — was below six feet 
in height, and all were broad-shouldered, deep-chested, 
and of magnificent physical development. Their faces. 

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it is said, wore an expression of deep grayity and intense 
passion, but passion under the control of reason. They 
seemed bent upon action, but it would be action without 
haste, and with a deliberate survey of the consequences. 

Robertson was a man of the keenest sensibilities, but 
he had such wonderful control of his nerves as to have 
the best command of himself when in the greatest dan- 
ger. He knew that his own" life, as well as the present 
fate of Southwestern civilization, hung on what he said 
and did during this interview ; but, from what else we 
know of him, we can readily believe that he was now as 
cool and self-collected as if it had been he, and not the 
savage and treacherous Oconostota, who was holding the 
trembling scale whose upward or downward dip meant 
life or death to hundreds of helpless women and chil- 
dren. It is said that the outer circle of chieftains rose 
as Eobertson entered, and gathered about him with looks 
of as much wonderment as was ever seen on the face of a 
Cherokee. "What,** they no doubt asked themselves, 
"is the secret of this man^s unmoved serenity? He is 
but one, we twelve hundred, and by our law of retalia- 
tion his life is forfeit. Whence, then, his look of singu- 
lar power, as if he were a king, even greater than Ocon- 
ostota?" They had physical bravery, but they knew 
nothing of moral courage, which, when a man has a 
great purpose, lifts him above all thought of self, and 
makes his life no more to him than the bauble he wears 
upon his finger. 

There was silence, it is said, for a few moments, when 

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Oconostota rose and gave Sobertson welcome to Echota. 
Then he bade him speak^ for he and his warriors woidd 
listen. I regret that I can not give Bobertson's exact 
words on this important occasion. He neyer recounted 
anything more than their substance^ which was, that the 
young brave had been killed by one not belonging to the 
Watauga settlement The murderer had fled, but would 
surely be apprehended and dealt with as his crime de- 
serred. Then he told the chieftains that the settlers 
had come into the country desiring to liye in peace with 
all men, and more particularly with their neighbors the 
brave Gherokees. By all means in their power, he and 
his friends should endeavor always to cultivate with 
them relations of good-fellowship. 

Tjie Indians listened at first with silent gravity, but, 
as Robertson went on, his evident sincerity awoke their 
kindly feelings, and they gave them vent in a few ex- 
pressi?e '^Ughs!'' At the close the old archimagus 
rose, and, turning to the chieftains, said: "What our 
white brother says is like the truth. What say my 
brothers ? Are not his words good ? '* 

The response was, " They are good," and a general 
hand-shaking followed, during which all present urged 
Robertson to remain a few days and partake of their 
hospitality. Though anxious to return with the peace- 
ful tidings, he considered it policy to remain. Thus he 
converted possible enemies into positive friends, and they 
were not alienated from him until the machinations of 
Captain John Stuart lured them into the army of the 

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civilized King of Great Britain on the outbreak of the 

While Robertson was at Echota at this time, he made 
the. personal acquaintance of the prophetess of whom I 
have spoken. This woman was the more than queen — 
she was the inspired sibyl — of the Cherokees. The power 
of Oconostota was absolute in time of war, but, in war 
or peace, it had to give way to that of the prophetess, 
when she spoke the will of the invisible guardian of the 
nation. Her influence was always exerted on the side of 
humanity, and to this day she is held in grateful remem- 
brance by the descendants of the early settlers. An in- 
stance of her kindly disposition toward the whites had 
occurred just prior to Robertson's visit to Echota. Two 
settlers, named Jeremiah Jack and William Rankin, had 
ventured down the Tellico with goods to exchange for 
corn, and had come into collision with a disorderly party 
of Cherokees. Their lives were about to be sacrificed, 
when the prophetess suddenly appeared among the In- 
dians, commanding them to desist from their hostile 
intentions, for the white men were their brothers. The 
settlers went back, their canoe loaded with com, and 
publishing everywhere the goodness of Kancy Ward, the 
"Beloved Woman." 

She is supposed to have been at this time about 
thirty-five years of age. Her father had been an English 
officer named Ward, but her mother was of the blood- 
royal, being a sister of the reigning vice-king, Atta- 
Culla-GuUa. The accounts I have been able to glean of 

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her are scanty, but they are enough to show that she had 
a most kind heart, and a sense of justice keen enough to 
recognize the rights of the enemies of her nation. She 
must haye possessed yery strong traits of character to 
retain, as she did, almost autocratic control oyer the 
fierce and untamable Cherokees, when she was known to 
sympathize with and befriend the white settlers. Bob- 
ertson felt the importance of securing her continued 
good- will, and he was accordingly glad of this opportu- 
nity of an interyiew. He has left no further account of 
it, or of her, than that her lodge was furnished in a style 
of barbaric splendor, and that she was a woman " queen- 
ly and commanding." He now returned as speedily as 
he could to the settlers, who were waiting in anxious 
susi^ense the result of his mission. 

While Robertson was away, Seyier had not been idle. 
With the surprising energy characteristic of him, he had 
built a fort at Watauga, and gathered eyery white set- 
tler into it, or safe within the range of its muskets. His 
force was not more than a hundred strong; but, had 
Robertson been safely out of the sayage hold, he would 
not haye objected to a yisit from Oconostota and his 
twelve hundred Ottari warriors. Seyier had no military 
training, except such as he had received under his friend 
Lord Dunmore, whose knowledge of the art of war was 
not considered yery great; but this rude and hastily 
constructed log fortress was a model of military archi- 

It was located on Gap Creek, about half a mile north- 

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east of the Wataaga^ and on a gentle knoU^ from around 
which the trees, and even the stumps, were carefully 
cleared to prevent their sheltering a lurking enemy. 
The buildings have altogether crumbled away, but the 
spot where they stood is identified by a few graves and a 
large locust-tree, which remains to remind the visitor of 
the first conflict between civilization and savagery be- 
yond the AUeghanies. The fort covered a parallelogram 
of about an acre, and was built of log-cabins placed at 
intervals along the four sides, the logs notched and fitted 
closely together, so that the walls were bullet-proof. 
The outer side of the cabins formed the exterior of the 
fort, the spaces between them being filled with palisades 
of heavy timber, eight feet long, sharpened at the upper 
ends, and set firmly in the ground. At each of the an- 
gles was a block-house about twenty feet square and two 
stories high, the upper story projecting about two feet 
beyond the lower, and provided with port-holes, so as to 
command the sides of the buildings. The whole had 
two wide gateways constructed to open quickly, and 
thus admit of a sudden sally or the speedy rescue of out- 
side fugitives. On one of these gateways was a lookout 
station, commanding a wide view of the surrounding 
country. The various buildings would comfortably 
house two hundred people, but in an emergency a much 
larger number could find shelter within the inclosure. 

This fort was the original and model for a multitude 
of others that were subsequently built beyond the 
mountains. They were the forerunners of civilization — 

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the ^'Yoice crying in the wUdemess/' and annonncing 
the reign of peace which was to follow. Admirably 
adapted to their object, they would, when properly 
manned, easily repel any attack of fire-arms in the hands 
of such desultory warriors as the Indians. In the arith- 
metic of the border, it soon came to be adopted as a rule 
that one white man behind a wall of logs was equal to 
twenty-five Indians in the open field, and subsequent 
eyents proved this to have been not a vain-glorious reck- 

These two events — Sevier's skill in putting the settle- 
ment in a posture for defense, and Robertson's successful 
embassy to the Cherokees — elevated the two young men 
still higher in the estimation of the settlers ; and they 
never lost the leading positions they then attained — one 
as the soldier, the other as the diplomatist, of the nas- 
cent commonwealth. In Robertson's absence, Sevier had 
embodied the settlers in a military company, of which 
they proposed that he should have command; but he 
insisted upon Robertson being made captain and himself 
lieutenant, and this while Robertson had no military 
experience, and he himself was a captain by commission 
in the Virginia forces. But thus it ever was in the deal- 
ings of these two men with each other. In honor, one 
always preferred the other. 

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PouE years of unbroken peace with the Oherokees 
followed Robertson's yisit to Oconostota. True to their 
pledges, the Indians remained friendly, though often 
suffering from the depredations of lawless white men 
from the seaboard settlements. These were reckless, 
desperate characters, fleeing from crime, who hoped to 
find freedom for unbridled license in a new community. 
Driven out by the Watauga settlers, they herded together 
for a time in the forest, subsisting by hunting, fishing, 
and preying upon the peaceable Gherokees, till at last, 
hunted down by them, they took final refuge among the 
Chickamaugas, the mongrel band of robbers and cut- 
throats, who were headed by the turbulent and sayage 
Dragging Canoe, of whom I shall have to speak here- 

But the stream of immigration that now poured over 
the mountains was of a totally different character. It 
fiowed at first around the settlements on the Watauga, 
and then spread along the Holston as far west as Carter's 
Valley, and on lands not included in the lease from the 
Indians. Among the new-comers were all classes — the 

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trader, the hunter, the land-speculator, and the farmer, 
but they were mostly of the latter class, who had come 
for permanent occupation. They were nearly all from 
Virginia, and of Scotch-Irish descent, generally poor, 
and threading the old Indian war-path or some narrow 
trace blazed by the hunters, with only a single pack- 
horse, which carried all their worldly possessions. But 
they had strong arms and stout hearts, and added at 
once to the wealth and security of the young commu- 
nity. They became, by the mere act of settlement, large 
land-owners, and their names are borne to-day by many 
of the leading families of the Southwest. Forts, mod- 
eled after the one at Watauga, were built for the protec- 
tion of the outlying settlers, and the colonists soon felt 
as secure as in their old homes in Virginia. 

In the fan of 1773 Boone again appeared in the Wa- 
tauga settlement. He was on his way, with his wife and 
children and the families of four or five other pioneers, 
to make the first settlement in Kentucky. Hitherto no 
white woman had ever crossed the Cumberland Mount- 
tains. He set out for Cumberland Gap late in Septem- 
ber, and was soon joined by a party of forty well-armed 
hunters. The whole formed a caravan of eighty per- 
sons, and, unconscious of danger, they were proceeding 
through a narrow defile when they were suddenly star- 
tled by the terrific yells of a large body of Indians. The 
first fire killed six of the whites, among whom was a son 
of Boone, aged twenty. The whole body then fell back 
to the Watauga settlement, where Boone remained till 

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after the close of what is known as Lord Dnnmore^s War, 
which soon broke out along the borders of Virginia. 

The scene of hostilities was remote from the Watauga 
settlers, but it soon became known among them that 
Logan had succeeded in combining most of the northern 
tribes against the whites, and was then endeavoring to 
draw the Gherokees and Ghickasaws into the coalition. 
This done, the tomahawk and scalping-knife would be 
brandished about their own dwellings. Weak as they 
were, they at once volunteered for the aid of their old 
friends in Virginia. John Sevier resumed his rank in 
the Virginia line, and took command of a comimny in 
Colonel Innes's regiment, and Evan Shelby raised fifty 
volunteers, and with them hastened to join General 
Lewis on the Ohio. In this company Isaac Shelby — 
who, we have seen, received his commission from the 
commandant of Fincastle County two years before — was 
lieutenant, and James Eobertson and Valentine Sevier, 
Jr., were appointed sergeants. Thus it appears that, 
while Sevier had gone up one grade in military rank, 
Bobertson had come down several grades; but both 
*' promotions '* were voluntary. It mattered nothing to 
either of these men whether they served in the rank or 
file, fought on foot or on horseback. The thing to do 
was to strike the blow where and when it was needed. 

The Watauga company marched twenty -five days 
through a trackless wilderness, over mountain-gorges, 
and amid deep defiles, where not even an Indian trail 
had made a pathway, and at last joined the Virginia 

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army as it lay encamped near the junction of the Kana- 
wha and the Ohio. For the details of the battle fought 
there, I must refer to other histories. I only allude to 
it here because it was in this, the most fiercely contested 
Indian conflict ever fought on this continent, that the 
*'tall Watauga boys" were apprenticed to the bloody 
trade it was theirs to follow for almost a generation. 
Here, too, the singular fortune attended them which 
made them thrice again the deciders of a great conflict 
In the morning they sayed the army from surprise, and 
in the evening they turned the tide to victory. 

At four o'clock, on the morning of October 10, 1774, 
one thousand Virginians lay sleeping under the trees at 
the mouth of the Eimawha, dreaming of their homes, 
and their wives and children — dreaming, when not two 
miles away fifteen hundred Shawnees, Delawares, and 
Mingoes, led by the heroic Cornstalk and the infuriated 
Logan, were stealing down upon them. It is the hour 
when men sleep the soundest; but just then James 
Bobertson and Valentine Sevier awoke, and, taking their 
guns, went out to shoot some deer for the breakfast of 
their company. They had not proceeded far before they 
heard the stealthy glide of some large body through 
the forest. They halt and listen ; and soon, not ten 
paces away, they see through the darkness the creep- 
ing forms of the on-coming enemy. They discharge 
their pieces at the advancing horde ; then turn and 
make all speed to alarm the sleeping army. The sudden 
discharge of the two rifles brought the Indians to a 

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halt^ and gave time for the Virginians to form in 
readiness to receiye them. 

All day the battle raged, at times like the howling 
of a tempest, and all day the victory wavered, now to 
this side and now to that, till the dead were piled in 
heaps, and more than one fifth of both armies had 
fallen. But, still the voice of Cornstalk was heard 
above the din, bidding his warriors "Be strong! 
Press forward ! " Colonel Lewis had fallen early in 
the fight, leaving his regiment to the command of Evan 
Shelby ; and now, just as darkness is coming on, with 
the battle yet nndecided, Isaac Shelby, who is left in 
command of the Watauga company, sees that, by creep- 
ing along the bank of the Kanawha, he can, in the 
shelter of the nnderbrush, gain the rear of the enemy. 
Taking two other companies with him, he does this, 
and then, pours a sudden and destructive volley upon 
the savages. Taken thus between two fires, the Indians 
are panic-stricken and floe in all directions. In vain 
Cornstalk and Logan attempt to rally them. They 
scatter, like October leaves before the wind, to their 
far homes on the Scioto. Peace soon follows ; and then 
Boone is at liberty to pursue his darling project of set- 
tling Kentucky. 

But for the intrigues of John Stuart, and . the barba- 
rous policy adopted by the British Cabinet of midnight 
massacre among men and women of their own kindred, 
this victory would have effectually cowed the savages, 
and brought permanent peace to the border. As it was. 

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the fact that a thousand frontiersmen could be got 
together at the tap of a dmm^ to fight all day as they 
fought at Point Pleasant^ seemed to be a lesson lost 
upon both the British and the Indians. 

Peace being concluded, the Watauga fifty returned 
to their homes, racked their rifles and powder-horns 
over their doorways, and resumed the axe and the 
plow with which they were subduing the wilderness. 
Sevier remained behind in Virginia, detained by the 
illness of his wife, who soon after died, leaving him, at 
the age of twenty-nine, a widower with two manly boys 
of nine and eleven years. He had been married before 
he was seventeen. 

In the mean time, in his enforced idleness, Boone 
had been dreaming of Kentucky, and Colonel Richard 
Henderson had continued to indulge in his splendid 
vision of a great commonwealth beyond the - Cumber- 
land. The Six Nations had relinquished their title to 
this territory to his Majesty King George ; but the 
Cherokees still claimed the whole of Kentucky as a 
hunting-ground. Their title must be extinguished be- 
fore any peaceable occupation could be had of the coun- 
try. Robertson had been much among them during 
the more than four years he had been their neighbor ; 
had acquired their language, and won the friendship 
of some of their principal chieftains ; and he now re- 
ported to Boone that the nation had become fond of 
gay clothing, ear and nose jewels, and tinkling orna- 
ments, and if those were offered them in sufficient 

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quantity the Indians would no doubt sell their north- 
em hunting-grounds. Upon this hint, Boone conferred 
with Colonel Henderson ; and then with one or two 
companions he went among the Cherokees. "None of 
you," he said to them, " have towns in that wilderness. 
Other Indian hunters kill the game there — ^probably 
more of it than you do. "We will pay you for your 
claim. Gome to the Sycamore Shoals [Watauga], and 
haye a talk with your friends." 

On the 17th of March, 1775, the Indians came, twelye 
hundred warriors ; and again all the settlers — now num- 
bering two hundred and fifty men, besides women and 
children — ^gathered together to meet them, till at least 
two thousand people were collected around the fort at 
Watauga. Among the Indians were Oconostota, Atta- 
CuUa-Culla, and the principal chieftains of the tribe ; 
and among the whites were Seyier, Kobertson, Boone, 
Henderson, and some of his associates in the land com- 
pany. A great pow-wow ensued, with feasting and danc- 
ing, and other "manly exercises," and during it the 
trinkets which had been laboriously brought from oyer 
the mountains on pack-horses were temptingly displayed 
before the simple sayages. Their eyes were dazzled by the 
gilded show, and their heads turned by the fire-water of 
Henderson, till they were eager to sell their birthright 
for this mess of pottage. But not so Oconostota. He 
was fond of the whisky of the white man, but in the 
dregs of his cup he beheld a yision of the future of his 
red race, and, in the great council which followed, he 

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lifted up his voice in what — ^read bow at the distance of a 
century — we see was a prophecy. 

He began by reminding the Indians of the time, 
which he could remember, when his nation could count 
sixty populous towns, and muster six thousand invincible 
warriors ; and then he spoke of the gradual encroachments 
of the white man, how step by step he had advanced upon 
their hunting-grounds, and how the red-man had with- 
ered and vanished away before him. He told how the 
white man^s insatiable greed for land had robbed them of 
the homes and graves of their ancestors, and how whole 
nations had melted away in his presence, like snow before 
the sun, leaving scarcely their names behind, except as 
recorded in the boastful annals of their enemies and de- 
stroyers. He had once hoped the white man would not 
penetrate beyond the mountains, so far was it from the 
ocean on which he traded and kept up his connections 
with his race in Europe. But this hope had now van- 
ished. He had crossed the AUeghanies and settled upon 
the Cherokee lands, and now he wanted his encroachment 
sanctioned by the solemnity of a treaty. Grant him that, 
and the same encroaching spirit would lead him upon 
other land of the Cherokees. He would call for new ces- 
sions, till at last the country which held their wigwams, 
and had, time out of mind, been the home of their ances- 
tors, would be wrested from them, and the weak remnant 
of a once great nation would be driven into the far West- 
em wilderness, there to dwell for but a short space before 
they again beheld the advancing banners of the same 

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greedy host, and were driyen westward to the great 
ocean beyond the setting sun, where, there being no land 
left except for their graves, the white man would pro- 
claim the total extinction of their race. 

Oconostota closed his impassioned address by urging 
the Cherokees to run all risks and incur all consequences 
rather than submit to any further encroachments of the 
white race. 

In a grand council of the Indians all hare a right to 
speak,. and it is what a man says, and not the man who 
says it, that gives weight to the words which are uttered. 
Oconostota was a great and wise chieftain, but he had 
no sooner taken his seat than a young warrior arose, 
whose eyes had been dazzled by the white man's trinkets. 
He reminded the Indians that their hereditary euemies, 
the Shawnees, the Mingoes, the Senecas, and the Dela- 
wares, often came to their northern hunting-grounds, 
and if they met there a Cherokee they left his bones to 
be buried in the winter's snow. The white man knew 
how to meet them, and if he settled Kentucky he would 
be a wall between the Cherokees and their northern ene- 

His words, and the eloquence of Henderson's trink- 
ets, prevailed over the appeal of Oconostota, and the old 
archimagus was obliged to assent to the desired cession, 
and to sign the treaty which followed. 

Then it appearing, writes Sevier, ^^that persons of 
distinction were actually making purchases forever — ^gen- 
tlemen of the law, supposed to be better judges of the 

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Gonstitution than we were — thas jieMing a precedent ; 
and considering the bad consequences which would at- 
tend the reyersion being purchased out of our hands, we 
next proceeded to make a purchase of the lands, reserv- 
ing those in our possession in sufficient tracts for our 
own use, and resolying to dispose of the remainder for 
the good of the community/' 

This treaty was signed two days subsequent to the 
Henderson purchase; and thus the settlers, ^'for two 
thousand pounds sterling, paid in goods,'' became pos- 
sessed of their homes in fee simple. When the two 
treaties had been executed, Oconostota said to Boone, 
" Young man, we have sold you a fine territory ; but I 
fear you will have some difficulty in getting it settled " — 
which remark shows that the wily old chieftain, though 
for the moment overborne by the greed of his people for 
gewgaws, was already meditating the dark and treacher- 
ous policy which made him for twenty years the most 
powerful enemy of Western civilization. Even when in- 
firm and almost bedridden, his unconquerable spirit con- 
tinued to animate the whole Cherokee nation; and he 
did not die till his old eyes had beheld his prophecy 
fulfilled in the natural result of his own deeds — ^his na- 
tion crushed and trodden underfoot by John Sevier, and 
about to be driven to a far-distant wilderness beyond the 

When the execution of the Watauga treaties became 
known in North Carolina, the royal governor of that 
province issued a proclamation declaring them illegal. 

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and without authority from his goyemment. This soon 
reached the ears of the Gherokees^ and helped Oconostota 
to bring over the nation to the Tiew that the treaties were 
of no binding force whatever. This was the kind of pro- 
tection which the British gave to the colonists. 

In but little more than a month after the signing of 
these treaties, the battles of Lexington and Concord were 
fought ; and the shot which was soon to be '^ heard 
around the world" echoed in that secluded hamlet on 
the Watauga. As it sounded through those old woods, 
every backwoodsman sprang to his feet, grasped hi» rifle, 
and asked to be enrolled for the succor of his country- 
men on the seaboard. In that whole mountain-region 
there was not a single Tory. Every man among them 
was a patriot, burning to fight, and, if need be, to die 
for his country. And their patriotism was not stimu- 
lated by British oppression. They were beyond the 
reach of the "red-coated minions" of King George. 
No tax-gatherer had ever been among them. They paid 
no tea nor stamp doty, for they drank corn-whisky 
flavored with spring-water, and sealed their legal docu- 
ments with melted rosin and a hot poker. As Sevier 
expressed it, it was their love for " the glorious cause of 
liberty" which led them to enroll, "at the expense and 
risk of their private fortunes," a fine body of riflemen, to 
act on the seaboard in defense of the common cause. 

Up to this time, for more than five years, they had 
stood alone, giving to, and not receiving aid from, the 
seaboard settlements — and this while surrounded by a 

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dense host of ssTages. And now what do they doP 
The worthy annalist of Tennessee, Dr. J. O. M. Bamsey, 
searching some time ago among the archiyes of North 
Carolina, discoyered, ** in an old handle of papers, lying 
on an upper shelf, almost out of reach, and probably not 
seen before for seyenty-fiye years,'' a document in the 
handwriting of John Seyier, which answers the question. 
They proceed to address a memorial to the patriot (rebel) 
Legislature of North Carolina, asking to be '' annexed'' 
to that colony, that they may aid in the '' present un- 
happy contest," and bear their "full proportion" of the 
Continental expenses. This memorial was signed by one 
hundred and fourteen— every man then present at the 
Watauga station— and all but two of them were able to 
affix their names in good, legible English. 

Their petition was granted, and the whole of what is 
now Tennessee was organized into what was called, in 
honor of the newly made commander of the American 
armies, the " Washington District," with power to elect 
delegates to a Constitutional Conyention, which was soon 
to assemble at Halifax, North Carolina, to form a State 
Constitution. John Seyier, Charles Robertson, and John 
Carter were elected delegates to this conyention, and they 
attended, leaving James Robertson to manage affairs at 
home. In the Declaration of Rights which was adopted 
by this Congress is this clause, introduced by Seyier into 
the article defining the limits of the State : " That it shall 
not be so construed as to prevent the establishment of 
one or more governments westward of this State, by cbn- 

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sent of the Legislature " ; thas showisg that he had al- 
ready in mind the establishment of a separate common- 
wealth beyond the AUeghanies, 

The riflemen who had been embodied were not dis- 
patched to the seaboard^ because a hostile feeling was 
soon manifested among the Gherokees^ and it became 
apparent that every able-bodied man among them would 
speedily be needed for the defense of their own fire- 

The policy of employing the scalping-knife of the 
Indian as the ally of England in her conflict with her 
revolted colonies was denounced in Parliament by the 
great Lord Chatham, but it was inaugurated by the 
British Cabinet at the very beginning of the struggle^ 
and was persisted in even up to the War of 1812. The 
ignominy of thus arraying savagery against civilization 
belongs, by way of eminence, to John Stuart, British 
superintendent of Southern Indian affairs, who himself, 
as we have seen, so narrowly escaped a savage death at 
the hands of the infuriated Oconostota, He first con- 
ceived and instigated the barbarous policy, and, as early 
as June 12, 1775, he concerted with General Gage, then 
commander-in-chief of the British armies in America, a 
gigantic scheme for the banding together of all the West- 
ern tribes in a combined attack on the rear of the colo- 
nies, while the British forces should make a simultaneous 
descent on the Southern seaboard. Gage laid the plan 
before the British Cabinet, and, early in 1776, Captain 
Stuart received instructions from the English War De- 

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partment to carry it into execution. The details of it 
may be gathered from the following words of a British 
historian : * 

" British agents were employed in engaging the In- 
dians to make a diyersion and to enter the Southern col- 
onies on their back and defenseless parts. Accustomed 
to their disposition and habits of mind, the agents found 
but little difficulty in bringing them oyer to their purpose 
by presents and hopes of spoil and plunder. A large 
body of men was to be sent to West Florida, in order to 
penetrate through the territory of the Crdbks, Chicka- 
saws, and Gherokees. The warriors of these nations 
were to join the body, and the Carolinas and Virginia 
were immediately to be invaded. At the same time, the 
attention of the colonies was to be diverted by another 
formidable naval and military force, which was to make 
an impression on the sea-coast. But this undertaking 
was not to depend solely on the British army and Indi- 
ans. It was intended to engage the assistance of such 
of the white inhabitants of the back settlements as were 
known to be well affected to the British cause. Circular 
letters were accordingly sent to those persons by Mr. 
Stuart, requiring not only the well-affected, but also 
those who wished to preserve their property from the 
miseries of a civil war, to repair to the royal standard as 
soon as it should be erected in the Cherokee country, 
with all their horses, cattle, and provisions, for which 
they should be liberally paid/' 

* 0. Stedman, ** History of the American War," vol. i. 

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Thus the colonists were to be encircled by a cordon 
of fire ; every man's home was to be enyeloped in flames, 
and his worst foes were to be those of his own house- 
hold. The plan was studiously concealed at the time, 
but was subsequently brought to light in the pages of 
an English historian, who was himself an actor in the 
eyents. Twice the British attempted to put it into 
execution, and twice they failed, by the help of Al- 
mighty God and that handful of backwoodsmen on the 
banks of the Watauga. They were only a handful, and 
thus haye almost escaped the notice of historians, but 
they bore the brunt of the sayage onset, and, while it. 
waa yet burning, extinguished the brand that was in- 
tended to consume the colonies. 

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The British fleet under Sir Peter Parker was to capt- 
ure Charleston, and to land a large army under Sir 
Henry Clinton. This force was to overrun the Carolinas 
and Virginia, while a strong body of Creeks and Chero- 
kees, led by Oconostota, Dragging Canoe, and other 
chieftains, should devastate the western border. Thus 
the Southern colonies would be enveloped and crushed 
in the folds of an anaconda. But of this bloody plan 
the colonists were as yet in total ignorance. 

Alexander Cameron was still the British agent, sub- 
ordinate to Stuart, living among the Cherokees. He 
had a personal animosity against Sevier and Bobertson, 
and the kind of loyalty which did not scruple to com- 
mit midnight massacre in the interest of his sovereign. 
Early in 1775 the settlers were apprized by the Indian 
trader, Isaac Thomas, that Cameron was at Echota, en- 
deavoring to incite the Cherokees to hostilities by the 
hopes of spoil and plunder, and the recovery of the hunt- 
ing-grounds out of which, he said, they had been de- 
frauded by the Watauga treaty. The Indians could not 
at first understand how men of the same race and lan- 

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goage conld be at war with one another. It had neyer 
been so known in Indian tradition. But an event soon 
occurred which showed that the virus implanted by the 
crafty Scotchman had begun to spread among the young- 
er braves, and might soon break out over the whole nar 

A trader named Andrew Oreer, whose home was at 
Watauga, had been on a trading visit to Echota. He 
had disposed of his wares, and was about to return with 
the furs he had received in exchange, when he thought 
he perceived signs of hostile feeling among some of the 
young warriors. Fearing an ambuscade on his way 
home, he left the usual route over the gr^at war-path, 
and took a less frequented trail along the Nolichucky. 
Two other traders, named Boyd and Dagget, who left 
Echota on the following day, pursued the usual route, 
and were waylaid and murdered at a small stream, which 
has ever since borne the name of Boyd's Greek. In a 
few days their bodies were discovered, only half-concealed 
in the shallow water ; and, as the tidings flew from ham- 
let to hamlet, universal alarm and indignation were ex- 
cited throughout the white settlements. 

The settlers had been so long at peace with the 
Cherokees that they had been lulled into a false security ; 
but they knew that the savage, having once tasted blood, 
would have his appetite whetted by what it fed on ; and 
they must now prepare for a desperate struggle with 
an enemy of twenty times their number. The fort at 
Watauga was at once put in a condition for efficient de- 

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fense ; smaller forts were erected in the center of every 
scattered settlement^ and a larger one was bnilt on the 
frontier, near the confiaence of the North and South 
Forks of the Holston. This last was called Fort Patrick 
Henry, in honor of the patriot GoTemor of Virginia ; the 
one on the Watauga receiyed the name of Fort Lee, 

Every able-bodied male, sixteen years of age and over, 
was now enrolled, placed under competent officers, and 
drilled for the struggle that seemed to be impending. 
All were unerring marksmen, and all were armed with 
the famous Deckard rifle, a gun with a stock three to 
four feet long, and a barrel of about thirty inches, spiral 
grooved, and' of remarkable precision for a long shot. 

But the winter wore away without any further act of 
hostility on the part of the Cherokees. Oconostota, who 
was deeper in the counsels of Stuart than even Cameron, 
knew that the time for action had not yet arrived. He 
therefore held back; and he was able to restrain the 
younger warriors who thirsted for the conflict, because of 
the excitement and glory they could find only in war. 
Nancy Ward was in the secrets of the Cherokee leaders, 
and every word uttered in their councils she fully re- 
ported to Isaac Thomas, by whom intelligence was con- 
stantly conveyed by trusty messengers to Sevier and Rob- 

Thus things went on till the spring of 1776, when 
John Stuart himself appeared among the Cherokees, 
bound on a personal mission to the Northern tribes, with 
several boat-loads of arms and ammunition, to prepare 

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them for the coming contest. He and Oconostota kept 
their own counsel, but Nancy Ward reported that his 
coming boded an early attack npon the settlements. At 
last, on the 30th of May, 1776, she said to Thomas : 
" Send my white brothers word to be ready ; for the bolt 
will fall yery soon, and at midnight. Let them be vigi- 
lant and well prepared." 

Sevier at once sent to Colonel Preston, commandant 
of the Virginid border, for an additional supply of pow- 
der and lead. Two hundred pounds of lead and half as 
much powder were all that could be spared, but this was 
at once distributed — the greater part being sent to Fort 
Patrick Henry, the most exposed position on the front- 
ier. The settlement was now under the government of 
North Carolina, but no military officer had yet been 
placed in command of the district. The entire force of 
the settlers was two hundred and ten men, forty of 
whom were at Fort Lee, under Sevier and Robertson ; the 
rest at and near Fort Patrick Henry, under no less than 
six militia captains, no one of whom was bound to obey the 
order of any of the others. This many-headed author- 
ity would, doubtless, have wrought disaster to the loose- 
jointed force, had there not been with it, as a volunteer 
private, the young man of twenty-five who had turned 
the tide at Point Pleasant. Here again was he to show 
that he "deserved well of his country.'* 

Now, from the 30th of May, 1776, until the 11th of 
July following, the settlers sleep with their rifles in their 
hands, expecting every night to hear the war-whoop of 

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the Gherokees, and eyery day to receiye some messenger 
from Nancy Ward, who shall announce that the warriors 
are on the march to the settlements. At last messengers 
came — ^four at once, as we may see by the following let- 
ter from Sevier to the Virginia Committee of Safety : 

** Fon liU, Jyiy 11, 1776. 
^* Deab Oeittleicen : Isaac Thomas, William Fal- 
ling, Jarot Williams, and one more, hare this moment 
come in by making their escape from the Indians, and 
say six hundred Indians and whites were to start for 
this fort, and intend to drive the country up to New 
River before they return. John Sbvieb.'* 

He says nothing of the feeble fort, or its slender 
garrison of forty men, about to be outnumbered fifteen 
to one. He asks for no re-enforcements ; and he shows 
no fear in face of the great peril. The letter is merely 
to warn his Virginia friends that the country is to be 
driven as far up as New Biver. It is altogether char- 
acteristic of the man, absolutely fearless, and thinking 
always, in however great a strait, first of others and last 
of himself. 

The details of the information brought by Thomas 
to Sevier and Robertson showed how truthfully Nancy 
Ward had previously reported the secret designs of the 
Cherokees. The whole nation was about to go upon the 
war-path. With the Creeks, they were to make a de- 
scent upon Georgia ; and with the Shawnees, Mingoes, 

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tod Delawares, upon the exposed parts of Virginia; 
while seven hundred chosen Ottari warriors were to fall 
upon the settlers on the WataUga^ Holston^ and Nolio 
chucky. This last force was to be divided into two 
bands of three hundred and fifty men each, one of 
which, under Oconostota, was to attack the fort at 
Watauga, the other, under Dragging Canoe, to capture 
Fort Patrick Henry, which they supposed to be only 
weakly defended. But the two bodies were to act to- 
gether — one supporting the other in case the settlers 
made a stouter defense than was anticipated. 

The preparations for the march Thomas had himself 
seen ; its objects, and the points to be attacked, he had 
learned from Nancy Ward, who had come to his cabin 
at midnight on the 7th of July, and urged his imme- 
diate departure for the settlements. He had delayed 
setting out till the following night, in order to give his 
information to his friends William Falling, Jarot and 
Isaac Williams, who he proposed should set out at the 
same time, but by different routes, so that, in case one 
or more of them should be waylaid and killed, there 
might be a chance for at least one to get through to the 
settlements. However, at the last moment, the British 
agent, Cameron, had himself disclosed the purpose of 
the expedition to Falling and the two brothers Wil- 
liams, and detailed them, with a Captain Guest, to go 
along with the Indians as far as the Nolichucky. 
There they were to scatter among the settlements, and 
warn any '^king's man" to Join the Indians, or to 

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wear a certain badge by which he would be known and 
protected in any attack from the savages. They all 
had set bnt with the Indians ; but had escaped from 
them during the night of the 8th, and arriyed in 
safety at Watauga. 

Falling was sent with Seyier^s letter into Virginia; 
the two brothers Williams were dispatched to give the 
alarm at Port Patrick Henry; but Thomas remained 
to fight it out with the little garrison at Watauga. 
Then, in those July days, when the bells throughout 
the country were pealing out the newly declared birth 
of a nation, those forty resolute men prime afresh their 
rifles, and wait, with bated breath, the onset of the 
savage horde that the British have let loose for the 
butchery of the two hundred women and children who 
crouch there under their protection. 

But the first attack was not at Watauga. The garri- 
son at Fort Patrick Henry had two days' prior tidings 
from the Cherokees. Only a few men were stationed 
at the fort, the rest being scattered among the outlying 
stations, but all were within easy supporting distance. 
The women and children had been gathered into the 
fort at Watauga, or hastily sent on pack-horses over the 
line into Virginia near the head of the Holston, to what 
was known as the Backwater settlements. Scouts were 
kept out in all directions ; and on the morning of July 
19th they came in, reporting a large body of Indians, 
only twenty miles away, and marching directly upon the 
garrison. Runners were sent out at once to bring in 

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the scattered forces, and by nightfall one hundred and 
seyenty men had gathered at the fort, ready to meet 
the enemy. 

Then a council was held by the six militia captains 
to decide upon the best plan of action. The most were 
in fayor of awaiting the attack of the sayages behind the 
walls of the fort; but two of them — James Shelby (a 
younger brother of Isaac), and William Cocke, afterward 
honorably conspicuous in the history of Tennessee — pro- 
posed the bolder course of encountering the enemy in 
the open field. If they did not do this, there would be 
danger that the Indians, passing them on the flank, 
would fall on and massacre the defenseless women and 
children who had been sent to the rear. It was a step 
of extreme boldness — for the little force expected to 
encounter the entire body of seyen hundred Cherokees 
— but it was agreed to unanimously. 

Early on the following morning the little army, 
with flankers and an adyance guard of twelye, marched 
out to meet the enemy. They had not gone far before 
the men in adyance came upon about twenty of the 
Indians, who at once turned and fled precipitately. 
The adyance guard pursued, and the main body fol- 
lowed for some distance, but without coming upon any 
considerable body of the enemy. Night now was soon 
coming on ; and they were in a country broken into 
defiles, and oyergrown with underbrush, and thus fayor- 
able to an Indian ambuscade. Fearing this, the offi- 
cers called a halt; and in another council decided to 

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retrace their steps to the fort^ and wait for the morn- 
ing. It was difficult to restrain the men from an ad- 
vance^ but the return march was begun, and had pro- 
ceeded about a mile, when suddenly in their rear ap- 
peared the whole force of the enemy. Evidently the 
twenty Indians had been a decoy to lead the whites 
into an ambuscade ; and, seeing it had failed, the say- 
ages had come on to fight in the open field. 

The whites wheeled about, and were forming into 
line, when the whole body of Indians rushed furiously 
upon them, not waiting to reload their rifles, but brand- 
ishing their scalping-kniyes and tomahawks, and shout- 
ing : ^' The Unakas are running I Gome on, and scalp 
them I" Simultaneously they attacked the center and 
left flank of the whites ; and then was seen the hazard 
of going into battle with a many-headed commander. 
For a moment all was confusion, and the companies 
were being broken in attempting to form in the face 
of the impetuous attack, when Isaac Shelby — ^having no 
command, and present only as a yolunteer — ^rushed to the 
front, and ordered each company a few steps to the rear, 
to reform, while he and four others should meet the 
onset of the savages. 

Recognizing in the young yolunteer tbeir natural 
leader, the men obeyed bis command instantly ; and 
during the few moments occupied in forming into line 
he and Lieutenants William Moore, Robert Edmiston, 
and John Morrison, and private John Findley, the old 
companion of Boone, bore the brunt of the assault. In 

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hand-to-hand conflict Edmiston slew three or four of 
the Indians, Morrison as many more, Findley was bad- 
ly wounded, and then Moore became engaged in a des- 
perate struggle with a herculean chieftain, and, as if by 
general consent, the Indians paused to await its issue. 
This delay, no doubt, saved much loss of life among 
the one hundred and seyenty. It lasted for some min- 
utes, but ended by Moore's sinking his tomahawk into 
the brain of the Indian. 

Meanwhile the whites had formed into line, and 
poured a destructiye volley in among the Cherokees, who, 
now that the single-handed conflict was over, made a 
rapid movement upon the five men who so bravely stood 
as a forlorn hope during those few perilous moments. 
The five fell back into the line, but Edmiston, being in 
the center, still bore the weight of a furious assault. 
He was a strict Scotch Presbyterian, but is said to have 
been called to account for some profane language used 
on this occasion. Twenty-six savages were dead upon 
the ground, and Dragging Canoe himself was badly 
wounded, before they gave up the contest Then they 
slowly withdrew, carrying off their wounded. In all, 
forty of them were killed. Of the whites, none were 
killed, and only four seriously disabled. 

The confiict over, Shelby sent off a horseman with 
the tidings to Watauga. **A great day's work in the 
woods ! " was Sevier's exultant remark, when the messen- 
ger told him of the astonishing victory. 

Meanwhile Oconostota and his three hundred and 

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fifty warriors had followed the trail along the Noli- 
chueky^ and, on the morning of the 20th, had come 
npon the house of William Bean, the hospitable enter- 
tainer of Robertson on his first visit to Watauga. The 
small fort near by had been abandoned, and all the set- 
tlers, men, women, and children, had fled for protection 
to Fort Lee — all except the good Mrs. Bean, who, having 
many friends among the Indians, was confident she 
would not be molested. In this she was mistaken. The 
Indians took her captive, and removed her to their camp 
on the Nolichucky. There she was brought before Ocon- 
ostota, who questioned her as to the strength of the 
whites and the disposition of their forces. She gave him 
misleading replies, with which he appeared satisfied; 
but another chieftain pointed his rifle at her as if to fire, 
when the old king threw up the barrel, and assured Mrs. 
Bean that she should not be killed, but taken to their 
towns to teach the Indian women how to manage a 

The garrison at the fort knew that Oconostota was 
near by on the Nolichucky, but he had deferred the 
attack so long that they concluded the wary old chief- 
tain had decided to wait till he could be re-enforced by 
Dragging Canoe after the capture of Fort Patrick Henry. 
News had reached them of Shelby's victory, an^, think- 
ing it would be some days before the broken Cherokees 
could rally to the support of Oconostota, they were in no 
apprehension of sudden danger. Hence, they went about 
their vocations much as usual, and so it was that a 

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number of women ventured outride the fort in the early 
morning of July 21st. Among them was one who was 
afterward to occupy for many years the position of the 
first lady in Tennessee. Her name was Catherine Sher- 
rill^ and she was the daughter of one of the first settlers. 
I know of no portrait of her in existence, but tradition 
describes her as being now about twenty years old, tall, 
straight as an arrow, and lithe as a hickory sapling. She 
had, it is said, regular features, dark eyes, flexible nos- 
trils, a neck like a swan, a clear, transparent skin, and 
a wealth of dark-brown hair that was in striking contrast 
with the* whiteness of her complexion. A free life in the 
woods had made her as agile as a deer, and she had been 
known to place her hand upon a six-barred fence, and, 
encumbered by her womanly attire, to clear it at a 
single bound. Now her agility was to do her essential 

While, unconscious of danger, she and some other 
women were engaged in domestic pursuits at a little dis- 
tance from the fort, suddenly the war-whoop echoed 
through the woods, and a band of yelling savages mshed 
out upon them. Quick as thought the women spring to 
their feet and dart toward the gate of the fort ; but the 
savages are close upon them in a neck-and-neck race, and 
Catherine, more remote than the rest> is cut off from the 
entrance. Sevier sees her danger, and, with about a 
dozen others, opens the gate and is ruishing out to her 
rescue, in the face of two or three hundred savages, 
when Bobertson holds him back, saying, ** You can not 

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help her, and going out will destroy the whole of us.'* 
Then they cover her with their rifles, and Seyier sends 
at least one of her pursuers to the happy hunting- 

At a glance Kate takes in the situation. She can 
have no help from her friends, and the tomahawk and 
scalping-knife are close behind her. The savages are 
between her and the gate of the fort, but quickly she 
turns, and, fleeter than the deer, makes for a point in 
the stockade at some distance from the entrance. The 
palisades are eight feet high, but with one bound she 
reaches the top, then clambers over, and falls Into the 
arms of Sevier, who is waiting to receive her. Then, 
for the first time, he calls her his *^ Bonnie K^te," his 
"brave girl for a foot-race." The other women have 
entered at the gate in safety. 

The baffled savages now opened fire, and for a full 
hour it rains bullets upon the little inclosure. But the 
missiles fall harmless ; not a man is wounded. Driven 
by the light charges the Indians use, the bullets merely 
bound from the thick logs, and do no kind of damage. 
But it was not so with the fire of the besieged. The 
order was, ** Wait till you are sure of your man — don't 
waste your powder" ; and so every one of those forty rifles 
did terrible execution. 

For twenty days the Indians hung about the fort, but 
not a man who kept within the walls was so much as 
wounded. But it was not so with a man and a boy who, 
made bold by a few days' silence of the Indians, vent- 

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ured to go outside and down to the river. The man 
was scalped on the spot; the boy was reserved for a 
worse fate, when the fight was over, in one of the In- 
dian villages. He was a younger brofher of Lieutenant 
Moore, who fought so bravely at Fort Patrick Henry. 

At the end of twenty days Oconostota heard of re-en- 
forcements being on the way from Virginia for the relief 
of the garrison, and, baffled and dispirited, he fell back 
to his home on the Tellico. He had lost about sixty 
killed, and probably had a larger number wounded, and 
he had inflicted next to no damage upon the white set- 
tlers. Instead of spoil and glory, he had given only 
death and disgrsice to his warriors ; and now they clamor 
for leave to hunt other game than such as wields a Deck- 
ard rifle — all but Dragging Canoe and his band of Chick- 
amauga bandits. This chieftain's wound had made him 
furious. He was enraged beyond expression, and thirst- 
ing for vengeance. Only two prisoners were in his pow- 
er, but on them he determined to wreak the extremest 

Young Moore was taken to the village of his captor, 
high up in the mountains, and there burned at a stake ; 
and a like fate was determined for Mrs. Bean, the kindly 
woman from whose hospitable door no one — ^white man 
or red — ever went away unwelcome. Oconostota would 
have spared her life, but Dragging Canoe insisted that she 
should be offered a sacrifice to the manes of his fallen 
warriors; and the opposition of even the archimagus 
was powerless. 

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Mrs. Bean was taken to the summit of one of the 
ancient burial-mounds^ which are stiU so numerous 
along the banks of the Tellico. She is here tied to a 
stake^ the fagots aTe heaped about her^ and fire is about 
to be set to them, when suddenly Nancy Ward appears 
among the throng of revengeful savages and orders a 
stay of the execution. Dragging Canoe is a powerful 
chieftain, but he is not powerful enough to combat the 
will of this woman. Mrs. Bean is not only liberated — 
with an honorable escort she is sent back to her husband. 

The body of Indians under Dragging Canoe, which 
was defeated near Fort Patrick Henry, scattered at once 
into the forest. The larger number went directly south 
with their wounded chieftain, but a portion broke up 
into small bands in pursuit of plunder. One of these 
small parties strayed as far east as Wolf Hills — now 
Abingdon — ^in the ^^Holston Valley" district of Vir- 
ginia. The Eev. Charles Cummings had been pastor 
of two congregations here since 1772. He was a godly 
man, and a very efficient member of the church militant 
— what in our days would be termed a ** fighting par- 
son." It was his custom on Sundays to array himself in 
his clerical vestments, and, with a shot-pouch slung about 
his neck and a rifle thrown over his shoulders, to enter 
his church, and, thus armed, ascend the pulpit. Then, 
laying his pouch on the cushion before him, and stand- 
ing his rifle in a comer, he would begin religious services 
to a congregation armed in much the same manner. 

As this gentleman with four others was going to work 

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in his field a few days after the battle near Fort Patrick 
Henry, they were suddenly attacked by one of Dragging 
Canoe's marauding bands. The first fire killed one— 
who had fought in the battle — and wounded two of the 
others; but with the remaining man Gummings beat 
back his twenty assailants, and brought off the wounded 
men in safety. He subsequently accompanied Sevier in 
most of his campaigns ; and it was profanely said of him 
that he never went into a fight without stripping off his 
coat, " praying like time, and then fighting like — hades ! '' 
It was this man^ with about a hundred of his parish- 
ioners, who was now hurrying to the relief of the be- 
leaguered garrison at Watauga. Evan Shelby also raised 
a hundred horsemen and marched to the fort ; but, before 
the arrival of either party, Oconostota had hastily raised 
the siege and withdrawn to the Tellico. 

Oconostota did not set out upon his raid along the 
border until he had been told by John Stuart that the 
guns of Sir Peter Parker had opened upon Fort Moultrie 
in Charleston Harbor. As has been said, the two attacks 
were parts of one huge plan, involving a vast expense, 
and nearly a year's preparation. A large fleet and five 
thousand British soldiers and seamen were employed in 
the seaboard attack, but on the 28th of June, 1776, it 
was repulsed by precisely four hundred and thirty-five 
men posted behind a pile of palmetto-logs in the harbor 
of Charleston. This is well-known history ; and we have 
now seen how less than half that number of raw back- 
woodsmen, led by Sevier and Shelby, frustrated the 

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other half of the mighty combination. In brief, two 
separate forces, numbering all told only six hundred and 
forty-fiye men, acting widely apart and without concert, 
brought to naught a most skillfully conceived and ma- 
turely considered plan, backed by the whole power of the 
British Empire. 


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The attempt of Stuart to unite the Southern Indians 
in a combined attack upon the border settlements was 
successful. There was a general uprising in his depart- 
ment. The Choctaws, Creeks, and Erati Cherokees de- 
scended upon South Carolina and Georgia; the Shaw- 
nees, Dela wares, and Mingoes upon the back counties of 
Virginia; and, as we have seen, the Ottari Cherokees 
and Chickamaugas upon the Watauga settlements. The 
attack on Virginia was led by the Cherokee chief Eaven, 
but he turned back without striking a blow on learning 
of the repulse of Oconostota and Dragging Canoe on the 
Holston and Watauga. Therefore I am right in saying 
that four hundred and thirty-five men under Moultrie in 
Charleston Harbor, and two hundred and ten under 
Sevier and Shelby in the backwoods of Carolina, beat 
back this front and rear assault from five thousand 
British and not less than fifteen thousand Indians. 
Napoleon affirmed that Providence is always on the side 
of the heaviest artillery ; but a recent orator has said that 
" One with God is a majority.'' 

It soon became known among the colonists that this 

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concerted raid of the Indians had been instigated by 
Great Britain. Before the attack upon Charleston, Stu- 
art had left that city in great haste, leaving behind him 
some of his books and papers. These fell into the hands 
of the patriots. Among them were copies of his corre- 
spondence with Cameron, his agent residing among the 
Cherokees, which disclosed the whole of his atrocious 
plan to whelm in blood the Southern colonies. About 
the same time, also, a stranger rode up one night to the 
door of Charles Robertson at Watauga, and left with him 
a letter from Henry Stuart, a brother of Captain Stuart, 
who was then with the Cherokees. This gentleman was 
in no way related to James Robertson, but he was a true 
patriot. However, it must have been supposed by Stuart 
that he was secretly loyal to the crown, for he disclosed 
to him the British plan, and invited him to come to the 
Cherokee nation, or else to sign a paper owning alle- 
giance to King George. This last would protect him ftom 
the " inevitable ruin " which he said was about to over- 
,' take all enemies of Great Britain. It was also soon dis- 
covered that British officers, disguised as Indians, had in 
many instances led and directed the attacks of the sav- 

These facts, communicated to the " committees of 
safety " which existed in every county, were soon spread 
abroad aniong the people, and excited everywhere general 
indignation. When a Christian king was thus seen band- 
ing together the savages for the extermination of his own 
kindred, every man became a patriot; it decided the 

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wavering and fired the lukewarm to resist to the death 
the rule of the British Government, Havoc and burning 
and the tomahawk might be in every man's dwelling, 
but that were better than submission to a king who in- 
cited the midnight murder of women and children. 

Thus aroused, the colonists rose and fell upon the In- 
dians. A force from Georgia swept the Creek towns on 
the Tugaloo River ; in early August eleven hundred and 
fifty South Carolinians met and utterly defeated Cam- 
eron and a large body of Tories and Cherokees at Oco- 
noree ; and North Carolina embodied two thousand men 
under General Rutherford, who penetrated the mountain- 
region as far as the Hiwassee, defeated the Erati Chero- 
kees, and laid waste the whole Indian territory. Thirty 
or forty towns were burned, crops and cattle destroyed, 
and the Indians scattered among the forests in a starv- 
ing condition. 

Simultaneous with these events, Patrick Henry, then 
Governor of Virginia, directed Colonel Christian, of the 
Backwater settlements, to embody the border-men and 
descend upon Oconostota on the Tellico. They rendez- 
voused at the Great Island of the Holston, eighteen hun- 
dred strong, and iu the first days of August set out on a 
marck of nearly two hundred miles into the Indian coun- 
try. With them went Isaac Thomas as guide, James 
Robertson at the head of the men of Watauga, and John 
Sevier in command of a select company of scouts, who 
were to serve as the eyes and ears of the army. What is 
surprising is the promptness with which these various 

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forces were embodied, and the celerity of their moTe- 
ments. This is accounted for by the fact that every 
frontiersman was a soldier and acted as his own commis- 
sary. With his pouch filled with parched com, he trusted 
to his rifle for the remainder of his rations. Thus it was 
parched com and gunpowder that carried civilization 
beyond the Alleghanies. 

In a few days Thomas had led the army to the cross- 
ing of the French Broad Biver. Here the Indians, to 
the number, as is variously stated, of one to three thou- 
sand, had made a stand, and prepared to resist the in- 
vasion. The great war-path which here crossed the river 
led into the richest part of their country, and the Indi- 
ans were at first determined to defend the crossing to the 
last extremity; but a white trader, named Starr, who 
was among them, dissuaded them from any attempt at 
resistance. In an earnest harangue he told them it was 
folly to contend with the white man, that the Great 
Spirit intended he should overrun and occupy all the 
lowlands that could be cultivated. To the red-man he 
had given the hills and forests where he might subsist on 
game without tilling the soil, which was work fit only 
for women. To stmggle with the white man was, there- 
fore, to fight with destiny ; the only safety for the Indi- 
ans lay in a speedy retreat to their mountain fastnesses. 

Owing perhaps to this harangue, but more probably 
to the tidings of disjister which came to them from every 
quarter, a panic ensued among the Cherokees. They 
disbanded and dispersed, making no organized attempt 

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at resistance. However, small parties hung upon the 
skirts of the whites, ready for a struggle with destiny — 
whenever it could be taken at a disadvantage. 

Crossing the river, the whites found the Indian camp 
broken up and deserted ; but they pressed rapidly on to 
the Cherokee towns along the Little Tennessee and Tel- 
lico. Every one of those towns was burned except 
Echota. The standing grain was destroyed, the cattle 
were slaughtered, not enough corn was left in all the 
country for a solitary hoe-cake — except at Echota. That 
town, and all within it, was spared, because it was the 
home of Nancy Ward, the friendly prophetess. But on 
the village high up in the mountains, in which young 
Moore was burned, fell, if possible, a more severe retri- 
bution. Sevier went to it in person ; and ever afterward, 
for more than twenty years, his name was a terror among 
the Cherokees. Not a woman or a child was injured ; 
but it is significantly stated that ^^no males were taken 
prisoners." Sevier began then his system of "carrying 
the war into the enemy's country." 

The campaign lasted three months ; but npt a sin- 
gle white man was killed or wounded, which was the 
more remarkable, as the Indians on several occasions 
attempted to ambush small parties. Thus were the sav- 
ages consumed in the fire of their own kindling. The 
Cherokees were considered the most guilty, and on them 
fell the severest chastisement. Their wigwams — which 
the Indian loves as the white man does his home — were 
desolated, and their wives and children were brought to 

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the very yerge of famine. For this is war, ciTilized or 
uncivilized^ which lets loose among men the all-deyonr- 
ing, remorseless passions which are born in the dark 
abodes of sheol. 

And now Oconostota, his pride hnmbled^ his spirits 
broken, and many of his bravest warriors lying unbnried 
in the forest, saed for peace with his enemies. It was 
granted, bat only on condition that he should make 
other large cessions of the territory to which he cluDg 
as the only guarantee of the continued existence of his 
race and nation. Even harder conditions might have 
been exacted, for the nation, like its king, was complete- 
ly subdaed and disheartened. Only one man among 
them still carried himself erect, and defied his enemies. 
This was Dragging Canoe, head chief of the Chicka- 
maugas. Still smarting from his wounds, and his sore 
defeat by a white stripling, he stood aloof, indomitable 
and, as he deemed, invincible. He refused to " come 
in,^' and swore eternal vengeance against the white set- 

Among the men in Colonel Christian's army were 
many from the interior counties of Virginia, who saw 
now for the first time the limpid streams, the rich 
valleys, and luxuriant uplands of lower Tennessee, and 
experienced its genial climate, where the heats of Au- 
gust and September are tempered by a cool breeze which 
comes continually down from the mountain altitudes, 
"stealing and giving odors." They were enraptured 
with the country; and, even before peace was con- 

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eluded, they chose out spots for the homes to which 
they soon afterward emigrated. Thus was the little 
commonwealth on the Watauga strengthened by the 
very efforts which the British and Indians had made 
to destroy it. 

And the war, and the danger from the Indians, did 
not drive away any of the original settlers. They saw 
how, unaided, they had repulsed their assailants, and 
they felt no fear for the future. The struggle had 
drilled them to military life, and inspired them with 
a contempt for their savage enemies. In the words 
of their old historian,* their question henceforth was, 
" Where are they to be found ? " not " How many are 
they ? " No better material for soldiers ever existed. 
They were active, fearless, patient of fatigue, inured to 
hardship, and expert with the rifle, the most deadly 
weapon then in existence. They only needed a leader 
to become, though but a handful, an invincible host, 
which should put a girdle of fire round the rude cra- 
dle of Western civilization. And that leader was even 
then standing among them, and, in the providence of 
God, being trained for the important work he was to 
do for his country. He won no glory in this campaign, 
for he met no enemy ; but as commander of the scouts 
he thoroughly explored the country, so that every stream, 
every hill, every mountain-path, was distinctly mapped 
in his memory, which is said to have been so remarkable 

• Haywood. 

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that he could at a later time^ whea the head man among 
a hundred thousand, call by name every man, woman, 
and child in the territory. Moreover, at this time he 
met, and became familiar with, the Backwater men, and 
the rough riders of Wilkes and Surry, whom he was 
afterward to lead, with the brave Campbell and Cleve- 
land, on that long march to King's Mountain. 

A suspension of hostilities being agreed upon, to be 
followed by a formal treaty in the ensuing April, the 
army was now marched back to the Holsfon, and there 
disbanded — all but four hundred Backwater men under 
Evan Shelby and Anthony Bledsoe, who were retained 
to patrol the Watauga settlements ; for it was not deemed 
safe to leave them exposed to the raids of Dragging 
Canoe and his horde of Chickamaugas. 

These Indians, though numbering not more than 
fifteen hundred warriors, were the most ferocious and 
formidable of any along the border. Nominally Chero- 
kees, they were in reality a mongrel horde, part Creek, 
part Cherokee, and part renegade white ' men, who on 
account of their crimes had fled from the seaboard set- 
tlements. Herding with these Indians, these white men 
had become worse than the savage, more lawless^ untam- 
able, and bloodthirsty. Owning a slack allegiance to 
Oconostota, the tribe was yet practically independent, 
a band of outlaws, thieves, and murderers, with a hand 
against every man, and numbering among them the very 
worst characters, white and red, to be found upon the 
border. Dr. Bamsey appropriately terms them '^the 

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Barbary powers of the West," and their country "the 
Algiers of the American interior/* 

The region they at this time occupied is the most 
picturesque in all Tennessee. Their towns were scattered 
along the two banks of the river of that name from 
Ohickamauga Creek to below Nick-a-jack Cave, and thus 
they held the southern gateway of the AUeghanies. 
The same causes which have led the modern engineer 
to lay here the tracks of eight great railways, and which 
have made this point the center of some of the most 
important military operations of this century, led the 
untutored Indian to select it as the crossing-place of 
his hunting and war parties in their excursions south to 
the Coosa and Tallapoosa, and north to the Cumberland 
and Ohio. It commands both the river and the pass 
into the mountains, and moreover is full of well-nigh 
inaccessible fastnesses, where a handful of men might 
defy an army. To these secret recesses the Chickamau- 
gas, when hard pressed, could resort, and laugh to scorn 
the impotent Wrath of their enemies. 

The scenery of the whole region is picturesque and 
beautiful beyond description. About eight miles below 
Chickamauga Creek, and two and a half from the pres- 
ent city of Chattanooga, Lookout Mountain lifts its 
huge bulk above the clouds. The river flows at its 
base, and from its opposite bank rises Walden's Ridge, 
in a long range a thousand feet high, and crowned with 
towering oaks and poplars, which have stood there for 
centuries. The view from the top of Lookout is to-day 

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one of the mdst magnificent to be anywhere seen in 
this eonntry. The eye ranges into five States, over 
spreading forests, waving fields, scattered farm-houses, 
and populous towns, nestling among high mountains 
that roll away in successive billows, as if they were the 
crested waves of some fearfully disturbed ocean, which 
had been arrested and petrified in its onward sweep 
ages before man was created. The tall cliffs of Cum- 
berland Gap, more than two hundred miles away, are dis- 
tinctly visible ; and through the whole wide landscape 
winds the silvery Tennessee, now hidden by some over- 
hanging wood, now emerging into some grass-covered 
valley, but ever rushing on, broadening as it comes, 
till it pours around the foot of Lookout, a foaming 
torrent half a mile in width. Then, as if loath to leave 
the abodes of men, it turns back upon itself in a sharp 
curve, forming a curious bend, which, from its resem- 
blance to the human foot, was called by the Indians 
Moccasin Point. Then the river plunges into a nar*^ 
row gorge between the jutting cliffs of Walden's Bidge 
and Baccoon Mountain, and winds again its tortuous 
way till, a mere silver thread, it is lost in the haze of 
the far northwest. 

For several miles below Lookout Mountain the Ten- 
nessee is a foaming rapid, where, contracted into a 
narrow channel, between overhanging cliffs, the furious 
waters dash from side to sidiB, and rush madly on, over 
huge bowlders and masses of rock, in a thousand cas- 
cades and whirlpools. Vast sums have been expended 

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in late years to remove these obstructions, but even now 
navigation at this point is difficult and dangerous. At 
the time of which I write, these rapids could not be 
passed except at high water, and then a light canoe, a 
steady hand, and the most skillful of oarsmen, were 
needed to avert disaster. All along the river for miles 
the shores are bold, frowning with bare rock, or over- 
grown with tangled wildness ; but as Nick-a-jack Cave 
is neared, some twenty miles below Chattanooga, this 
wildness deepens into a most oppressive solitude. Over 
the whole shore and river there broods, even now, a som- 
ber silence, a * dreary loneliness, which seem to invite 
to deeds of violence and crime ; and what must it have 
been before law had overspread this region, when no 
human eye was here to witness, " no vigilance to detect, 
no power to punish, no force*" to avenge " the dark deeds 
which were often committed by the bloodthirsty Chicka- 
maugas ! For this is the scene of some of their foul- 
est crimes, and from these gloomy retreats they laughed 
at their pursuers. 

Their principal hiding-place was Nick-a-jack Cave, 
a spacious, gloomy cavern, entered from the river, which 
at this point is contracted into a narrow channel, and 
overhung by projecting cliffs and towering precipices. 
Both of its banks are here bold and elevated, and in some 
places the bare, perpendicular rock affords scarcely a foot- 
hold between the cliffs and the river. Here and there 
a cove indents the shore, where are wooded recesses 
that would shelter and conceal a thousand ; and break- 

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ing in from the foot of Cumberland Mountain, round 
which the river sweeps in a furious flood, is a narrow 
opening that leads into this now well-known cayem. 
The cave is about eighty feet wide, and in the center 
fifteen feet high, and it is arched over with pure gran- 
ite. A clear stream, fed by underground springs, issues 
from it, and following this a canoe can proceed four or 
five miles into the very bowels of the mountain. 

In this vast cavern, and the neighboring caves, the 
Chickamaugas took refuge when pursued by Sevier and 
his riflemen. The place was then altogether unknown 
to the whites ; but, had it been known, a hundred reso- 
lute men could have defended it against any force that 
Sevier could have brought against it. 

The war had not extended to this home of Dragging 
Canoe ; his com was still standing ; and, secure in these 
unassailable fastnesses, and fired also by a revenge which 
the religion of the Indians exalted into a virtue, he now 
refused all overtures for peace, and impatiently waited 
for the healing of his wound that he might again sound 
the midnight war-whoop about the white man's dwell- 

But the winter passed away without any molestation 
from the Cherokees. The nation at large had enough to 
do to keep soul and body together, and the Chickamaugas, 
who had com and provender in plenty, had acquired a 
wholesome dread of the white settlers. They would not 
move without Dragging Canoe, and he still lay upon 
his buffalo-robe at the mouth of Chickamauga Creek, 

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writhing with his wound, and venting his rage in impo- 
tent declarations of war against the pale-faoes. So the 
settlers had time for social converse and meditation^ 
which last is said to be the mother of all wisdom. 

They met together in their rude cabins, and discussed 
the situation ; and then Sevier reminded them that they 
had shown the ability to defend themselves, and might 
now safely dispense with the guard of four hundred 
men so generously loaned them by Patrick Henry. 
Every man that Virginia could muster was needed on 
the seaboard. Besides, Oconostota and the great body 
of Cherokees would not again go upon the war-path 
till they had planted and harvested another crop of 
com; and as for Dragging Canoe and his bandits, 
Robertson and he could attend to them, now that a 
force of more than two hundred men could be quickly 
got together in the settlements. If they could not, Evan 
Shelby, who was only forty miles awq^y, would hasten 
to their help at the first sound of their rifles. 

This Sevier said, and it was acted upon, except that 
Shelby in going away insisted upon leaving a garrison 
in Fort Patrick Henry. This would relieve the settlers 
from station duty, and permit them to give their un- 
divided time to peaceful employments. However, Sevier 
was cautious as well as bold. He gathered the settlers 
together around two stations, one under himself, the 
other under Robertson, and both with Fort Lee between 
them and the enemy. Nor did he relax his personal 
vigilance. Mounted on a fast animal he was everywhere, 

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at all hours of the day and night ; for he had more 
faith in his own eyes than in those of any other man, 
however clear-sighted. 

So the winter wore away, and spring arrived, and 
the Legislature of North Carolina came together. Hith- 
erto the State had acted as if not aware that she had 
an unprotected child, housed in some exposed hut off 
there heyond the AUeghanies. She had neglected its 
infancy and its feeble youth, though, even when it was 
scarcely able to go alone, it had prepared to go to her 
aid in her struggle with the gigantic power across the 
ocean. But this she had ignored ; and she had left 
it, when set upon by overpowering numbers, to get 
its help from Virginia, and had moved against its ene- 
mies only when there was danger that they would scale 
her own back fence and make havoc in her farm-yard. 
Now that the youth had shown he could not only stand 
alone, but soundly thrash his own and her enemies, his 
anxious step-niother thought it was about time he should 
be kept in order and brought under the dominion of law. 
He might continue to feed and clothe and defend him- 
self, but she would guide and govern and control him. 
So she threw over him what some of her lawyers called 
the aegis of North Carolina, gave him courts of pleas 
and quarter-sessions, to decide suits, and pass judgment 
upon offenders, and a sheriff to execute the decisions 
of these tribunals. Moreover, she gave him an entry- 
taker, of whom he might ^^uy lands which he had al- 
ready bought and paid for, and to whom he might pay 

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taxes, for the privilege of living under her protection, she 
herself being too weak to protect herself, and too poor 
to pay for a barrel of gunpowder ! 

To all this Watauga assented ; but the settlers took 
good care that the officials set over them should be men 
of their own choosing. They elected Valentine Sevier 
sheriff, and John Sevier clerk of the county ; and they 
placed over the new courts John Sevier, James Eob- 
ertson, and the other judges who had constituted the 
self-formed tribunal which up to that time had se- 
cured uninterrupted peace and good order in the new 
community.. So the change was merely nominal. Se- 
vier and Bobertson continued to embody in themselves 
all judicial and administrative functions : they merely 
no longer acted in their own names, but by authority 
of the State. " Hereafter,'* as is said by Dr. Eamsey, 
" Watauga, happy, independent, free, and self-reliant, 
the cradle of the great West, is merged into and be- 
comes a part of North Carolina. *' 

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OcoNOSTOTA^ and the head men of the Gherokees^ met 
the commissioners of Virginia and North Carolina^ in 
the spring of 1777, to arrange tlie details of the peace ; 
and, while they were exchanging the "diplomatic 
courtesies" which are customary on such occasions. 
Dragging Canoe got again upon horseback, and came 
down upon the Watauga settlers with a "talk" not 
so courteous, but far more in harmony with the nature 
of the Indian. He brought with him the greater num- 
ber of his warriors, but he did not attack in any large 
body. Breaking his force into small parties, he in- 
tended to fall at midnight upon exposed stations and 
isolated farm-houses, and to vanish before morning into 
the security of the forest. His first attack was on 
Frederick Calvert, one of the original settlers, whom 
he shot and scalped in his own house. Calvert sur- 
vived, but to meet a worse fate some ten years afterward. 

Before morning of the same day — April 10, 1777 — 
Dragging Canoo himself, with a considerable body of his 
warriors, stole upon Robertson's barn, near his dwell- 
ing, on the upper end of the island in the Watauga, 

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and got away with ten of his finest horses. Eobert- 
son discoYered the loss in the morning, and then, with 
only the nine men that he had with him on his plan- 
tation, he followed on the trail of the marauders. He 
soon came up with and surprised the Indians, killing one 
of them and i*ecapturing the animals. The savages scat- 
tered into the forest ; but, ashamed of being routed by 
so small a force. Dragging Canoe gathered his men to- 
gether again, and turned back upon the track of Eob- 
ertson. Overtaking him not far from his house, he fired 
a volley which wounded two of the whites ; but, though 
largely outnumbered, Eobertson beat off the Indians, 
and got safely home with all of his men and horses. 

This was the opening of a short war, during which 
Sevier may be said to have begun his long career as an 
Indian fighter. He had, as we have seen, already en- 
countered the savages in conflict ; but now, for nineteen 
years, he passed the larger part of his time in the sad- 
dle. When the struggle began he had but a little more 
than two hundred men, and arrayed against him in 
open hostility were Dragging Canoe and his fifteen 
hundred desperate banditti, and, in treacherous amity, 
nine thousand allied Creeks and Cherokees, who pro- 
fessed friendship, but were ready to strike a blow in aid 
of the Chickamauga chieftain whenever it could be done 
under cover of secreey. Moreover, during the greater 
portion of these nineteen years, the whole of this large 
force was combined in open warfara against the whites ; 
and the fact that Sevier not only protected the infant 

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settlements, but finally completely crashed this strong 
body of savages, is proof that he was not only a sol- 
dier, bat a military genius of a high order. He led raw, 
undisciplined backwoodsmen into battle, and with the 
first waye of his hand, the first sound of his voice, trans- 
formed them into soldiers and heroes. By some strange 
magnetic power he infused into them his own uncon- 
querable spirit, till every one became invincible and irre- 
sistible, a lightning-bolt that rent the Indian ranks as the 
electric fluid rends the serried forest. And he entirely 
reversed the tactics hitherto observed in Indian warfare. 
It was no longer a skulking behind trees, a patient and 
cautious waiting to take the foe at a disadvantage, but 
an open wood, an onward gallop, a wild halloo, and then 
a storm of bullets before which the Indiai^ scattered 
like dry leaves before a November tornado. His move- 
ments were like the wind, his attacks like the whiri- 
wind — a rush and a roar, and then a silent' scene of 
death and devastation 1 He never took thought of his 
personal safety, was ever in the hottest of the fight, and 
the flash of his sword told always where to look for the 
largest heaps of slain, yet in thirty-five battles he never 
was so much as wounded. He seemed to bear a charmed 
life, and the missiles to pass him by as if they were con- 
scious that he was reserved to do a great work for his 
country. This is remarkable ; but his great military 
achievements can be easily accounted for. They were 
due to his tactics of ** Attack, and not defense,'' and tq 
the celerity of his movements, which disconcerted and 

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confounded his enemies. He fought on foot, but he 
moved on the fleetest of horses, and he never stopped to 
consult a commissary. His scouts might creep stealthily 
through the woods, without bending a branch or stirring 
a leaf, to get upon the trail of the enemy ; but, that once 
discovered, Sevier's movement was as swift, as direct, and 
as destructive, as that of the hurricane. Thus it was 
that he girdled with a wall of fire the infent settlements 
along the Holston and Watauga, often meeting enemies 
of twenty times his own number, without ever losing a 
battle. If I were to recount his operations in detail, I 
should swell this volume to much beyond its intended 
compass. I can only mention those which have a direct 
bearing on the course of this history. 

Dragging Canoe was active and brave, and he moved 
with great rapidity ; but wherever the Indians appeared, 
even in small bodies, there were they met by Sevier, or 
some of "his trusted lieutenants, among whom may be 
mentioned his two brothers, Valentine and Eobert, 
Major Cosby, Captain Evans, and Major Jonathan Tip- 
ton, who all displayed superior qualities as border sol- 
diers. Small companies of rangers under these men 
regularly patrolled the more exposed localities, and 
trusty spies constantly scoured the woods and canebrakes 
in the neighborhood of the settlements. These precau- 
tions effectually guarded the settlers from surprise, and 
prepared them to successfully meet the midnight raids 
of the savages. 

Tired at last of continual defeat, and disgusted with 

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this new mode of warfare of the whites. Dragging Canoe 
retired, toward the close of the summer, to his secure 
fastnesses along the Tennessee, to wait there for a time 
when, with the help of Oconostota, he could combine 
the entire Creek and Cherokee nations in another gen- 
eral assault upon the settlements. This he could not 
then do, for Robertson was stationed among them, and 
had acquired the warm friendship of old Tassell, Sava- 
nuca, and other of the leading chieftains, and such an 
ascendency over the Cherokee nation at large, as held 
in check the machinations of Oconostota and the Brit- 
ish agent. 

The treaty of peace with the Indians had been 
signed on the 20th of July, 1777, and on the same 
day Bobertson was commissioned as agent for North 
Carolina to reside among the Cherokees. By written 
instructions from the Governor, he was directed to 
repair to Echota, with the warriors returning from the 
treaty, and to remain in the Cherokee country till 
otherwise ordered. He was to ascertain the disposition 
of the nation toward the whites, its relations with the 
northern, southern, and western tribes, and to report 
on these, and particularly on any manifestation of re- 
newed hostility on the part of Dragging Canoe and 
the Chickamaugas. He was also to search in all the 
Indian towns for persons disaffected to the American 
cause, to require of them an OBth of allegiance to the 
United States, and, in case of their refusal to make such 
oath, to cause their expulsion from the Cherokee terri- 

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tory. And, in addition, he was to procure the restora- 
tion of all property which had been stolen from the 
whites, '* to inform the government of all occurrences 
worthy of notice, to conduct himself with prudence, 
and to obtain the favor and confidence of the chiefs ; 
and, in matters with respect to which he was not par- 
ticularly instructed, he was to exercise his own dis- 
cretion, always keeping in view the honor and interest 
of the United States in general, and of North Carolina 
in particular/* 

This important appointment came to Bobertson un- 
sought. Speaking of it in later years, he said : '* With- 
out inquiring how, I found myself invested with office 
by the Old North State ; we lived and fought as neigh- 
bors, for each other, and our nnited country. Whether 
we were Virginians or Carolinians we asked and cared 
not; we were all for the general Congress and for 

The appointment required a long separation from 
his family, and his abode amid a barbarous and turbu- 
lent people, from some of the disaffected among whom 
his life might ^t any time be in danger ; but Bobertson 
did not for a moment hesitate in accepting the duties 
and hazards of the position. He resided with the 
Cherokees for more than a year, and, by his " winning 
ways'* and practical wisdom, succeeded in completely 
thwarting the plans of the British agent, backed as 
they were by the treacherous influence of the archi- 
magus of the nation. The great body of Greeks and 

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Gherokees were kept at peace^ and even the fierce and 
untamable Dragging Canoe was held to his hunting- 
grounds along the Tennessee. This last result was, 
however, mainly owing to the wholesome di'ead which 
this chieftain had conoeiTod of Sevier and his riflemen ; 
against whom he no longer dared to move without the 
support of his whole nation. 

Thus freed from active operations against Dragging 
Canoe, Sevier was able to afford men and supplies for 
the relief of Boone, who was now beleaguered by a, swarm 
of northern Indians in his fort at Boonesborough. This 
siege forms one of the most remarkable pages in border 
history. It began on the 4th of July, 1777, and lasted 
till well into the following September^ and at its outset 
the fort had but a slender garrison, and a meager sup- 
ply of com and ammunition. Without help the garri- 
son would soon be reduced to starvation ; but how to 
obtain it with the place beleaguered by thousands of 
Indians, who, under the lead of skillful British officers, 
guarded every outlet, waa the question. In this emer- 
gency the brave Captain Logan volunteered to run the 
gantlet of the savages, and make his way to Watauga. 
It was two hundred miles through an untrodden forest, 
with only the sun and stars to guide his course; but, 
with a select party of woodsmen, Logan set out on the 
perilous journey. Under cover of a dark night, he 
crept noiselessly from the fort, and, by hiding in the 
underbrush, managed to elude the savages. Then with 
but a single sack of parched corn for rations, the party 

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journeyed by unfrequented ways, concealing themselves 
by day, and traveling only by night, till they came to 
Sevier at Watauga, about the time of Eobertson's depart- 
ure for Echota. Sevier gave them a hundred riflemen, 
loaded them down with supplies upon pack-horses, and 
sent them back to Boonesborough. This timely succor 
enabled the fort to hold out, and finally to beat off its 
assailants. As we go on with this history we shall see 
that, in as great a strait, Boone gave a like succor to 

By the spring of 1778 Sevier was at the head of a 
well-equipped and disciplined force of over five hundred 
men, all of whom were inured to hardship, familiar 
with camp-life, and animated with a common spirit to 
resist to the death the oppressions of the British and 
the barbarities of the Cherokees. Hitherto immigration 
had come on pack-horses along the old Indian paths, or 
the narrow traces blazed by hunters; but in 1777 a 
wide wagon-road had been opened across the mountains 
into Burke County, North Carolina, and whole caravans 
of settlers now poured over it, and spread upon ifche 
lands recently acquired from the Indians. They were 
generally men of larger property than the first settlers, 
and they added greatly to the prosperity and safety of 
the new commonwealth. Every able-bodied man among 
them, between the ages of eighteen and fifty, was at 
once enrolled in the militia, and over the whole Sevier 
was now placed by a unanimotis vote of the new and 
old settlers. Prior to 1780 he always held command by 

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"the will of the people," who recognized in him their 
natural leader. Evan Shelby was about the same time 
commissioned a colonel in the Virginia line, and he 
now was in active service with the American forces 
upon the seaboard. 

But, though relieved for the moment from active 
service against the Indians, Sevier found at this time 
far more disagreeable employment for himself and his 
captains nearer home and in the heart of nearly every 
one of the settlements. While the majority of the peo- 
ple east of the mountains were patriots, among them 
were a large number who still adhered to the cause of 
Great Britain. Some of these were orderly and respect- 
able citizens ; but much the greater portion were a law- 
less banditti, who, gathering in small gangs, prowled 
over the country, depredating upon the patriots, and in 
many instances committing inhuman atrocities upon 
unarmed men and unprotected women and children. 
Houses were sacked, their occupants stripped of food 
and clothing, and, when not murdered outright, often 
tied to trees, severely whipped, and left weltering in 
their blood, to die of exposure or starvation, unless 
relieved by some neighbor, or a chance passer through 
the forest. During 1778 and 1779 these predatory and 
murdering bands rendered the condition of the western 
counties of North Carolina and that portion of South- 
western Virginia lying upon the head-waters of the 
Holston, and known as the Backwater settlements, 
truly deplorable. Driven from the seaboard, these 

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desperadoes collected in sufficient strength to defy 
the patriot militia^ and the war there hecame, what 
Stuart had planned it should he^ a hand-to-hand con- 
flict around every man's dwelling. It called forth the 
worst passions of hoth sides : civilized noian became a 
savage ; and the struggle one of life and death, in which 
one or the other party must be exterminated. Writing 
of this state of things in the Caroliuas, General Greene 
says : " The animosity between the Whigs and Tories 
renders their situation truly deplorable. There is not 
a day passes but there are more or less who fall a sac- 
rifice to this savage disposition. The Whigs seem de- 
termined to extirpate the Tories, and the Tories the 
Whigs. Some thousand have fallen in this way in this 
quarter, and the evil rages with more violence than ever. 
If a stop can not be put to these massacres, the country 
will be depopulated in a few months more, as neither 
Whig nor Tory can live.*'* 

Wilkes and Surry Counties, North Carolina, and the 
Backwater settlements of Virginia were distant from 
Watanga only from fifty to a hundred miles — the one 
being now accessible to it over the wagon-road which 
had been recently opened across the mountain, the 
other by the wide war-path that the Indians, time 
out of mind, had traversed up the Valley of Virginia. 
These districts were peopled, even more exclusively 
than Watauga, by a stalwart race of Presbyterians, of 
Scotch-Irish descent, and not unlike in general char- 

* Greene's "Life of General Greene," vol. iii, p. 227. 

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acteristics to the famous Ironsides of CromwelL They 
"feared the Lord^ but kept their powder dry/* and 
were ever ready to throttle a bear^ scalp an Indian^ 
or engage in a hand-to-hand struggle with the most 
desperate Tory. They were worthy disciples of Parson 
Gummings^ who preached to two of their congrega- 
tionsy and of whom it was said, as already mentioned^ 
that on going into battle he would strip off his coat, 
"pray like time, and then fight like sheol!" There 
was not a man among them who was not a patriot. 
As early as January 20, 1775, they had met together 
— Parson Cummings, Colonels Preston and Christian, 
William and Arthur Campbell, and other of their lead- 
ing men — and drafted and sent to the Continental Con- 
gress an address in which they said: "If no pacific 
measures shall be proposed or adopted by Great Brit- 
ain^ and our enemies attempt to dragoon us out of those 
inestimable priyileges which we are entitled to as sub- 
jects, and reduce us to slayery, we declare that we are 
deliberately and resolutely determined neyer to surren- 
der them to any power upon earth but at the expense 
of our lives. These are our real, though unpolished, 
sentiments of liberty and loyalty, and in them we are 
resohred to lire and die.'* 

It was among such a people that the Tories had now 
scattered in small bands, and were attempting to sustain 
themselves by midnight depredations. The reception 
they received may be gathered from a few instances of 
well-authenticated history. 

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About one mile east of Seren-Mile Ford^ and not far 
irom the present town of Marion, in Southwest Virginia, 
lived Colonel William Campbell, who held command of 
the Backwater district. He was a man of decided char- 
acter and opinions. God-fearing and church-going, but 
liable upon provocation to outswear what is related of 
the profane army in Flanders. He was particularly ob- 
noxious to the Tories, who had placarded his gates, 
threatening his life, and on one dark night had waylaid 
him in a dense forest He was of stalwart frame — "six 
feet two inches, and well-proportioned " — and of desper- 
ate courage, and this had saved him from the midnight 
assassins. He had been away with his regiment in East- 
ern Virginia, but, on the occasion now referred to, had 
returned home for a brief visit to his wife, who was a 
worthy sister of Patrick Henry. He had attended church 
on Sunday, as became a good Presbyterian, and was re- 
turning home with his wife, and a few friends, when, 
looking up the road, he observed a man, mounted on 
a fine horse, turning abruptly into the woods, as if to 
avoid a meeting with the party of church-goers. This 
excited his suspicions, and, inquiring who the man was, 
Campbell was told that he was one Hopkins, an infa- 
mous bandit and Tory, who had baffled all attempts to 
bring him to justice. Instantly putting spurs to his 
horse, he followed on the track of the fleeing desperado. 
After a hard chase he came up with him, and then, at 
the close of a desperate struggle in which he nearly lost 
his own life, he overcame and captured him. Then 

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Campbell rode back to his wife and friends^ and in an- 
swer to her eager question, ''What did you do with 
him?" he said, merely, '*0h, we hung him, Betty — 
that's all ! '' 

Quite as summary was the mode of dealing with this 
class of Tories in Surry and Wilkes Counties. The lead- 
ing men in this district were Colonel Benjamin Cleyeland 
and Major Joseph Winston, both of whom afterward 
fought brayely by the side of Campbell at King's Mount- 
ain. Cleveland was a magistrate as well as a military 
man, and he became the terror of all the Tories in his 
region. He was a man of herculean proportions, rough 
and ready in his ways and summary in his judgments ; 
but he had withal a kindly and humane disposition, and 
took no pleasure in inflicting punishment and suffering 
upon even the most guilty. On one occasion one of the 
most notorious criminals in the county was brought be- 
fore him, and promptly sentenced to be hanged. There 
being some delay in leading the man out to execution, 
Cleveland said, " Waste no time, swing him off quick ! '* 
whereupon the criminal turned coolly upon him and re- 
torted, **You needn't be in such a d — d hurry about 
it, colonel ! " Struck with the coolness of the man, 
Cleveland directed the excutioners to let him go. Sub- 
dued by this unexpected turn of affairs, the Tory said to 
Cleveland, with much feeling : *^ Well, old fellow, you've 
conquered me. Forever after this I'll fight on your 
side I " And he kept his word, becoming one of Cleve- 
land's best soldiers. 

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The. fact that such a man should have been forced to 
send to execution nearly a hundred of his fellow-creat- 
ures reveals the lamentable condition of anarchy and 
terror that ruled in this mountain-region during the 
Eevolutionary period. It was " your life or mine " ; the 
two classes could by no possibility exist together. Even 
woman forgot her gentler nature^ and became as inex- 
orable a judge as the most severe magistrate. It is re- 
lated that on one occasion^ during the absence of Colonel 
Cleveland, a Tory horse-thief was brought to the house to 
be tried for his offenses. There being no safe place to con- 
fine the prisoner, and, fearing he might escape before their 
father's return, the colonel's sons went to their mother 
for advice as to what to do in the circumstaDces. Ask- 
ing the criminal's offense, and learning that the evidence 
against him was overwhelming, Mrs. Cleveland inquired 
what their father would do with the man if he were at 
home. "Hang him," was the answer. "Well, then," 
she said, " you had better hang him." He was accord- 
ingly hanged from the cross-bar of the gate in front 
of her doorway. 

It is evident that siich a condition of things could 
not continue long in any community. The patriots were 
in the majority, and such as were left of the Tories at 
length fled to the Indians or across the mountains to the 
settlements along the Holston and Watauga. Had they 
been content to adopt peaceful pursuits, they might have 
here dwelt in security. But they were not. They at 
once began the same system of plunder and massacre that 

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had made them a scourge to the older communities. 
Under the lead of a Captain Grimes, they soon waylaid 
and murdered a peaceable citizen named Millican ; and 
another they kidnapped, and, bearing him to a high 
precipice on the upper waters of the Watauga, forced 
him, by threats to cast him down headlong, to buy his 
life at the sacrifice of all his property. Other outrages 
soon followed, and they even planned to murder Sevier in 
his own dwelling ; and doubtless they would have done 
this— for he slept with doors unbarred — had they not 
been betrayed by the wife of one of them, who, in her 
distress, had been treated by Sevier with great humanity. 
Nothing but this last attempt was needed to arouse 
the settlers to a flame of exasperation. The courts of 
pleas and quarter sessions, which had been established 
among them by North Carolina, had no jurisdiction in 
capital cases— they could not hang for murder — and such 
good order had hitherto ruled in the settlements that 
there had been no occasion for a court of higher author- 
ity. But the necessity now was urgent — ^too urgent to 
admit of the long delay that would be involved in any 
reference to North Carolina. So these people, who had 
once had an independent existence, again assumed to 
themselves supreme authority. They came together, 
passed their own laws, and elected a vigilance com- 
mittee to attend to their execution. Every man — old 
settler or new-comer — was required to take an oath of 
allegiance to the United States, and, failing to do this, 
he was to be expelled from the district Those that had 

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committed crimes were to be duly punished, but only 
after a fair trial by a jury regularly impaneled. Two 
companies of light horsemen, under Captain Bobert Se- 
vier and Captain William Bean, the first settler, were 
put by Colonel Sevier at the control of the vigilance 
committee, and they soon had administered the oath in 
every hamlet among the scattered settlements. Thus 
was good order speedily restored, and, by the end of 
sixty days, not a man who was not a patriot was left any- 
where upon the waters of the Holston or Watauga. The 
Tories — such as had not been suspended from the 
branches of the chincapin — fled to Oconostota. Being 
refused asylum by him, owing to the continued presence 
of Bobertson, who required of the Oherokees a strict ob- 
servance of the treaty, they made their way to Dragging 
Canoe in his distant lairs along the Tennessee, and thus 
contributed to swell his band of outlaws. 

During the ,ten years which had now passed since the 
first settlement beyond the mountains, society had been 
gradually emerging from the hunter and pastoral state, 
to which it was of necessity at first confined, into the 
agricultural condition, wherein the simplicity of patri- 
archal life is exchanged for the more artificial customs 
and relations of modern communities. Men no longer 
procured their principal subsistence from the forest, but 
from the soil, thereby coming under the original law, 
'^In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread" — ^which 
law, while it enforces greater toil, marks a higher grade 
of civilization. 

■ • \ 

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The opening of roads^ which had introduced wheeled 
vehicles, had hrought with them increased wealth and 
greater refinement. Dwellings became more comfortable, 
and bams were no longer exposed ricks, with a slight cov- 
ering of split saplings. The saw came in to supplement 
the axe, plank floors took the place of rived puncheons, 
and even roofs began to be covered with shingles. The 
first house covered in this manner was erected in 1777, 
and its going up was deemed an event so notable that it 
has found its way into history. Logs, however, contin- 
ued to be the usual material for the walls of houses, for 
nothing else was impervious to bullets, and security was 
still the prime requisite in a dwelling. 

Soon after the advent of courts, a county-seat was 
established and a court-house erected. The county-seat 
was duly incorporated by the Legislature, and named 
Jonesboro, in honor of a prominent North Carolinian, 
and a court-house was erected there in 1779. Heretofore 
the seasions of court had been held in the houses of 
prominent citizens, but now Justice was to have a domi- 
cile of her own, from which to issue those stern decrees 
which struck terror into the hearts of Tories and horse- 
thieves. However, her temple was not of the most im- 
posing description. Her tripod was a rough bench, 
without a back, or a soft spot to sit on, and her bar a 
sawed joist which had never made the acquaintance of a 
jack-plane. The edifice was built of round logs, freshly 
cut from the adjacent forest, and the records of Wash- 
ington County have preserved to us its exact specifica- 

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tion. It was to be "twenty-four feet square, diamond 
corners, and hewn down after it is built up; nine feet 
high between the two floors ; body of the house four feet 
aboTe upper floor ; floors neatly laid with plank ; shingles 
of roof to be hung with pegs. A justice's bench, a law- 
yer's and clerk's bar ; also, a sheriff's box to sit in." 

There was not a sash nor a pane of glass in the en- 
tire building. But the absence of these was not regai'ded 
as a discomfort or an inconvenience. The sessions were 
usually held in mild weather, and, from the narrow di- 
mensions of the court-room, much the larger number of 
attendants had to congregate outside on the grass and in 
the shade of the great trees which still towered there in 
primitive grandeur. Though excluded from the inner 
sanctuary of justice, this outside auditory could see and 
hear all the sacred proceedings by means of the wide, 
open windows. The sessions of court then, as now in 
that region, were occasions of great gatherings of the 
people. From far and near they came together, not 
merely to transact business with the court, but to ex- 
change news, discuss the political situation, and decide 
which among them had the fastest racers. 

A good horse was. a passion among this people. 
From the first, Sevier had encouraged the introduction 
and raising of the finest breeds, for upon fleet animals he 
depended for the celerity of his movements against the 
Indians. A fine animal was not merely a luxury to be 
proud of, but a military necessity whereon might often 
hang the safety of the scattered community. Hence, a 

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fleet and trusty horse was the most valuable of possessions. 
Sevier himself cultiyated the choicest breeds^ and to 
him^ and to the necessity which he was the first to appre- 
ciate and provide for^ is it owing that Tennessee and 
Kentucky have to-day the finest stock of racing animals 
in the world. 

In the wake of the court came the attorney^ and the 
records show that, in one way or another, two of this 
fraternity managed to sustain life in the new settlements. 
There is no evidence to determine whether they subsisted 
upon fees, or by the raising of com and potatoes ; but 
the names of the two having come down to us, we are 
able to affirm that they never attained to any especial 
prominence or influence in the community. Of more 
importance to the body politic was the schoolmistress, 
who now was to be found at nearly every cross-road in 
the older settlements. She was usually ja single woman, 
of uncertain age, who, having no children of her own, 
was supposed to be the better able to instruct those of 
other people. She occupied a small log-house, generally 
about sixteen feet square, and often without floor or win- 
dows, and, if she was not a shining light of erudition, she 
did turn out men and women many of whom became or- 
naments to the nation. 

These rude school-houses were for several years the 
only places of worship, but in 1779 a building was 
erected which was especially devoted to religious services. 
A Baptist congregation was organized, and over it was in- 
stalled the Eev. Tidence Lane, who thus became the first 

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settled minister of the gospel beyond the AUeghanies. 
Before him, however, had come the Kev. Samuel Doak, 
who journeyed about the settlements, and preached, like 
John, in the open wilderness. Mr. Doak was a man of 
rare qualities, and from the first exerted a strong and 
wide influence upon the community. Next to Sevier 
and Bobertson, he was the most important factor in the 
young commonwealth, not acting like them directly upon 
events, but upon the men by whom events were created. 
In this way he was a great power for good. He founded 
Washington College, and gave the whole of his long life 
to the promotion of education, good order, and good 
morals among the backwoods people. Sevier and Eob- 
ertson cleared the ground and turned up the furrow; 
this man threw in the seed, which sprang up and bore a 
plentiful harvest to civilization. 

And now, at the close of 1778, there was peace beyond 
the mountains. Oconostota had been subdued. Drag- 
ging Canoe was held in check, and the disorderly Tories 
had been driven to seek refuge among the congenial 
bandits on the lower Tennessee and Chickamauga. In 
these circumstances it was deemed prudent for Robert- 
son to leave his post among the Indians, and return to 
the society of his family, and the comforts and refine- 
ments of civilized life. Neither he nor Sevier then sur- 
mised that events were at that moment impending 
which might drench their firesides in blood, and subject 
them and their descendants to the iron rule of a hated 

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Aftbe the repulse of Sir Henry Clinton -from before 
Charleston, and the defeat of the Cherokees on the 
frontier in 1776, the Southern colonies had a respite 
of nearly three years from British invasion. The ana- 
conda system of Stuart had been temporarily aban- 
doned, and the whole strength of the English con- 
centrated upon the subjugation of the North. The re- 
sults, however, were anything but satisfactory. After 
nearly four years of fighting, the British held New York, 
but had been obliged to evacuate Philadelphia, and 
their successes in the field had been more than coun- 
terbalanced by the loss of the entire army of Burgoyne 
at Saratoga. 

But the situation of the Americans was by no means 
hopeful. The Northern army was reduced to seventeen 
thousand men, poorly equipped and provisioned ; and 
the finances of Congress were in so crippled a condition 
that no money could be raised for offensive operations. 
Loans could not be negotiated, and the Continental 
currency had depreciated to such an extent that twenty 
dollars had a purchasing value of only one dollar 1 In 

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these circumstances the patriot armies could merely 
maintain their ground ; they could make no moyement 
toward the expulsion of the British forces from the 

This was the state of affairs when Sir Henry Clinton, 
in 1778, succeeded General Howe in command of the 
British forces in America. This active and enterpris- 
ing officer had led the attack on Charleston in 1776, 
and was familiar with the plan of Stuart for a combined 
front and rear attack upon the Southern colonies. He 
saw that this period — when the American armies pt the 
North were unable to move, and there was next to no 
patriot force embodied at the South — was a favorable 
time to again attempt to carry the gigantic plan into 
execution. This he accordingly decided to do ; and on 
this occasion he determined that the *' anaconda " should 
take a wider sweep, and inwrap in its folds not only 
the South and Southwest, but the whole country lying 
east of the Mississippi. Prom his stronghold of Detroit, 
Henry Hamilton, the Lieutenant-Governor of Canada, 
was to combine and organize the NTorthern Indians, 
while Stuart and Oconostota marshaled the Southern 
tribes, and the British commander-in-chief descended 
upon Savannah, thereby flanking the pile of palmetto- 
logs which in 1776 had ingloriously repulsed the com- 
bined forces of Clinton and Sir Peter Parker. Savan- 
nah taken, direct communication would be again opened 
between the British and Creeks and Cherokees, and 
there would be, as Clinton supjwsed, no opposing force 

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that could preyent the co-operatioa of the Southern 
Indians with his Northern allies under Hamilton. A 
foothold secured in Georgia, Charleston would be taken 
from the land side^ and a strong British force would 
then overrun all the Southern colonies, rallying the dis- 
affected, and sweeping northward in such numbers as 
to defy opposition, and effectually subjugate the whole 

Such was the plan, sagacious, deeply matured, wide- 
sweeping, and it seemed out of the power of the colonies 
to offer to it any effectual resistance. It did not, how- 
ever, succeed ; and, in relating how it failed, I shall hare 
to record another miracle in American history — another 
proof of the falsity of Napoleon's axiom that "Provi- 
dence fights always on the side of the heaviest artillery. '' 

Everything being in readiness, toward the close of 
1778 the British columns were set in motion. On the 
29th of December Savannah fell, with scarcely any resist- 
ance, and British posts were at once established as far 
inland as Augusta. Direct communication being thus 
opened with the Creeks and Cherokees, a large supply of 
warlike stores was sent forward to Dragging Canoe at 
Chickamauga — ^not to Oconostota, lest tidings of the ar- 
rival should reach Sevier and Shelby on the Watauga. 
This being done, Hamilton began to execute his part of 
the extended programme. With six hundred choice 
troops and some Indian allies, he advanced from Detroit 
to the fort at Vincennes on the Wabash, intending to 
march thence against Kaskaskia on the Mississippi, where 

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he expected to be joined by a large body of Cherokees 
and Chickasaws, with whom he would proceed to a 
general rendezvous of all the tribes at the mouth of the 

But Hamilton had a passion for scalps^ and he halted 
at Yincennes to allow his Indian allies to gather these 
favorite trophies from among the neighboring white set- 
tlers. By this halt his force was scattered and reduced, 
and this proved his destruction. Suddenly, one morn- 
ing in March, as if springing out of the ground, there 
appeared before the gates of the fort a weather-beaten 
man, in tattered regimentals of the Continental serv- 
ice, demanding its instant and unconditional surrender. 
Where he had come from, or what force he might have 
at his back, Hamilton could not so much as conjecture ; 
but, when he learned his name, he took his demand into 
serious and respectful consideration. 

This man was George Sogers Clark, one of the most 
picturesque figures in American history. Patriotic, en- 
ergetic, and ambitious, he had also a reckless intrepidity 
that led him to take delight in enterprises of the most 
adventurous and apparently impossible character. But 
he lacked the iron will, the unselfish and elevated aims, 
and the high moral qualities of Sevier and Eobertson, 
and so he fell short of being a hero. He was more of the 
old-time knight-errant than the modern soldier, and he 
was not a born leader of men, like the two I have men- 
tioned. However, he performed great services at this 
period to his country, and for these the mantle of char- 

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ity should be cast over his subsequent errors and short- 

The massacre in the Wyoming Valley, in the summer 
of 1778, awoke Virginia to the necessity of protecting 
her western frontier from the incursions of the Indians. 
Patrick Henry at once commissioned Clark to raise a 
regiment for that service ; and soon, with two hundred 
borderers, but without supplies or other equipment than 
the trusty Deckard rifle,, he set out on foot for a march 
of nearly fifteen hundred miles down the Ohio and into 
the unknown wilderness of "the Illinois." His bivouac 
was the open forest, his only subsistence the game he 
killed by the way, but, before winter had fairly set in, 
he had driven the savages to the west of the Mississippi, 
and captured the fort at Kaskaskia, near the west bank 
of that river. 

It was the purpose of Hamilton to attack Clark at 
Kaskaskia, and, with the aid he expected from the sav- 
ages, he counted on making an easy conquest of him and 
his forces. Clark knew nothing of this design, nor of 
the mighty plan of which it was one of the feebler rami- 
fications. He simi^ly heard of the advance of Hamilton 
from Detroit, and divined that his objective point was 
Vincennes. With the instinct of the hound in pursuit 
of his game, he scented the prey afar off, and, with the 
directness and speed of that animal, he was at once on 
the trail of the enemy. Greater energy he could not 
have shown had he fully known what would be the con- 
sequences of his movements. It was a march of a hun- 

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dred and fifty miles through dense forests, tangled un- 
dergrowth, and deep morasses, where, time and again, he 
and his men waded to their arm-pits in water, breaking 
the ice before them for a passage ; but he kept on his 
way, and, on the morning of the 6th of March, 1779, ap- 
peared, as I have said, before the fort, and demanded its 
surrender. Hamilton asked for terms, but Clark refused 
any to a "scalp-trader,'* as he contemptuously termed 
the British commander. He peremptorily gave him his 
election between unconditional surrender and such quar- 
ter as his savage allies were wont to extend to their ene- 
mies. Without firing' a shot, Hamilton accepted the 
former alternative ; and, when his well-appointed force 
stacked their arms and marched into the center of 
Clark's half-starved battalion, he had the chagrin to 
discover that he had surrendered to a body of but one 
hundred and sixty shoeless, ragged, and wretchedly 
equipped backwoodsmen I On the charge of committing 
atrocities not countenanced in civilized warfare, Hamil- 
ton was put in irons and marched off to Williamsburg, 
Virginia, there to be dealt with as a common felon. 
After a long and rigorous imprisonment, he escaped 
hanging only in consequence of the personal intercession 
of Washington with Thomas Jefferson, then Governor of 

The head gone, the Northwestern coalition fell into 
speedy dissolution. Thus was so much of Clinton's 
plan frustrated. But the anaconda was scotched, not 
killed. The extremity had been shorn away, but the head 

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and trunk were still full of vital force, and the monster 
might yet, with slimy coil, infold the struggling colonies, 
crushing their life out in its deadly embrace. 

Dragging Canoe was invulnerable to British gold, but 
he had a weakness for British gunpowder ; for, savage 
as he was, he had the sense to know that, more than 
gold, it was the moving force of the eighteenth century 
— as, indeed, it will be of every coming century, until 
men recognize the fact that love, and not brute force, 
is the ruling power of the universe. Hitherto he had 
been destitute of that dynamic element, and though his 
recent re-enforcements of Tories had augmented his force 
to fully two thousand men, he was absolutely powerless ; 
for only a madman would think of confronting the rifles 
of Jfolichucky Jack with empty gun-barrels. But now 
he had powder enough to celebrate the king's birthday 
every day in the year for a twelvemonth. 

It was intended that Dragging Canoe and Oconostota 
should not move until Hamilton had marshaled the 
Northern tribes at the mouth of the Tennessee, when 
the whole savage horde — ^numerous as the forest-leaves, 
and irresistible as the tornado — ^should sweep down on 
the unprepared settlements, whelming them in a swift 
and wide -spread destruction. The coalition of the 
Northern tribes was, as we have seen, soon scattered to 
the four winds ; but without them Dragging Canoe and 
Oconostota could muster for the field at least fifteen 
thousand well-armed Creeks, Choctaws, Cherokees, and 
Chickasaws, every man of them brave and expert with 

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the rifle^ and the whole led by so able a soldier as 
John Stuart, of the British Highlanders. And what 
force coald the whites gather to withstand such an ava- 
lanche of savages ? All told, they could now muster 
from fifteen hundred to two thousand men — a half of 
the number from around Watauga, led by Sevier and. 
Shelby, and it may be as many more from Surry and 
Wilkes Counties, and the Backwater settlements, under 
Colonels Campbell and Cleveland. But this force was 
dispersed over a mountain country two hundred miles 
in extent. It would take time to bring it together, and 
the descent of the savages was intended to be sudden 
and without warning — a midnight raid in overpowering 
numbers upon every one of the scattered settlements. 

Thus the outlook for the whites was gloomy, and, to 
all who do not recognize an invisible agency in earthly 
affairs, it might well seem altogether hopeless. But now 
occurred one of those trifling events which are so often 
decisive of great results in human history. The vast 
combination of Hamilton had been frustrated by a lit- 
tle delay ; this was to miscarry for an altogether oppo- 
site reason. 

Dragging Canoe had been so long without powder 
that now, like a child with a new toy, he was impatient 
till he should be allowed to play with it. He knew 
that he was not to move till Hamilton had mustered 
the Northern tribes, and he himself had fully distributed 
the ammunition among the Southern Indians ; but his 
long good behavior had relaxed the vigilance of the whites. 

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and some of their outlying settlements now lay sleep- 
ing in fancied security, not more than sixty miles away. 
It might be weeks before the Northern snows would 
allow Hamilton to begin his march ; and meanwhile 
might he not gather a few scalps to ornament his wig- 
wam ? The temptation was too great for the yirtae of an 
undisciplined Indian, who had in possession arms and am* . 
munition of the specie ralue of a hundred thousand dol- 
lars. So, about the time that Hamilton set out from 
Detroit, Dragging Canoe and a few of his warriors went 
upon a brief raid against the more exposed of the white 
settlements. In a midnight attack on the house of one 
Boilston, on the extreme frontier, he lost four of his 
braves, and killed two of the whites — Jarot Williams 
and Alexander Hardin, Indian traders who have been 
hitherto mentioned. He attacked a few other farm- 
houses, but was beaten off without doing any material 
damage. Then, having done just enough to warn and 
arouse the settlers, he retired to his home on the Chicka- 

A blow upon the extremity of the human body is 
at once transmitted by the nerves to the common cen- 
ter of sensation, the brain. In like manner — so perfect 
was Sevier's system for transmitting intelligence — an at- 
tack on the most remote border was, by trusty scouts, 
promptly conveyed to him at the center of operations, 
Watauga. Thus it was that now, before twenty-four 
hours had passed, his fleet light horsemen were patrol- 
ling every hamlet and every by-path in the territory. 

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Was the attack at Boilston's the precursor of an assault 
in force^ or was it an isolated raid, originating in the 
restlessness of the Indian under his long-enforced inac- 
tivity ? These were the questions that occurred to Se- 
vier. A few days would answer them ; but, meanwhile, 
of one thing he was certain — the British had thrown 
over the mountains from Augusta a supply of ammu- 
nition to the sayages. It had come to Dragging Canoe, 
and not to Oconostota, lest he shouldr be apprised of its 
arrival by his faithful friend the Cherokee prophetess. 
Bobertson, with whom he was in the habit of conferring 
in all emergencies, was away with an exploring party 
upon the Cumberland ; therefore, when a few days had 
passed, and no general attack had followed, he saddled 
his horse and rode the forty miles that lay between 
him and Evan Shelby, at King's Meadows. 

At home with the sturdy Welshman were his four 
stalwart sons— Evan, Moses, James, and Isaac — ^the last 
of whom had been surveying lands in Kentucky, and act- 
ing as commissary-general of the Virginia forces, since 
he last appeared in this history. The six men sat down 
to a conference upon the situation. They all agreed 
that it was evident the Indians had received a supply 
of arms and ammunition at Chickamauga, which must 
be captured at once, or by the time that spring had 
fully opened the whole force of Creeks and Cherokees 
would be«>apon the war-path. But how to capture it 
was the question. No one present had ever been at 
Chickamauga, but all knew that it was located among 

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inaccessible mountains^ and deemed to be impregnable 
to any attack by land. But might it not be assailed 
by water, if celerity and secrecy were observed in the 
movement ? And would not seven hundred to a thou- 
sand men be enough to meet the two thousand Tories 
and savages assembled there, if the latter were taken by 
surprise, and unprepared for the encounter ? 

The foregoing points having been discussed, an im- 
portant difficulty •presented itself. The men could be 
readily enrolled, but the money to equip and supply 
them was altogether wanting. The existing war had so 
completely exhausted the resources of both North Caro- 
lina and Virginia that it would be a mere waste of 
time to apply to either government for assistance. And 
aid from individuals was equally as hopeless. Kot a man 
in the territory had in possession so much as a hun- 
dred dollars of even the depreciated Continental currency 
then in general circulation. However, the Latin adage, 
that '* riches are the sinews of war," is a misteke. 
Ear truer is the Jewish proverb, " A good name is rather 
to be chosen than great riches." Among these six was 
a young man of only twenty-eight, whose name was so 
"good" that on it, for something more than a year, he 
had fed and clothed the entire armies of Virginia ; and 
he would pledge it now for this expedition, trusting to 
the British powder they hoped to capture to meet his 
obligations. This young man was Isaac Shelby, the 
same who had defeated Dragging Canoe at Long Island 
Flats, and turned the trembling scale at the close of 

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the terrible day at Point Pleasant; A rendezvous being 
then appointed for the mouth of Big Creek, on the Hol- 
ston, not far from the present town of Eogersyille, Se- 
vier remounted his horse and rode back to Watauga. 

The machinery of war was at once set in motion. 
Swiftly the scouts of Sevier sped through the settlements, 
and promptly the hardy backwoodsmen gathered to the 
rendezvous. Then, when mounted patrols had been sta- 
tioned in every direction, to prevent the possibility of 
intelligence reaching the enemy, a strong force set to 
work to build a fleet of boats for the expedition. Even 
at this day the poplar grows in this region to a diam- 
eter of five feet and upward. These giant trees were 
felled, dug out with the axe and the adze, and fash- 
ioned into canoes, and a few flat-bottomed boats were 
constructed of planks floated down from the saw-mill 
at Watauga. More than a hundred of these rude craft 
were soon launched upon the Holston, and it may be 
safely aflSrmed that another such maritime array was 
never seen in civilized warfare. About noon of the 
10th of April, 1779, the flotilla drew out from the shore 
and started upon its way down the river. 

How many men were in the expedition it is impos- 
sible to state with exactness, for the leaders did not 
always count their own troops, or those of an enemy. 
Accounts differ, but the most probable estimate is seven 
hundred and fifty — one fifth of whom had been shortly 
before enlisted by Colonel John Montgomery for the 
re-enforcement of George Eogers Clark, whose recent 

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brilliant exploit at Vincennes allowed them a short de- 
lay in joining his forces. The remainder were drawn, 
in probably abont equal numbers, from the Watauga 
and Backwater settlements, by Sevier and Evan Shelby. 
The force represented about one half of the military 
strength of the region, and a larger number it was not 
prudent to withdraw, because the adyancing expedition 
would soon leave Oconostota in its rear, and he might 
descend upon the settlements if he should learn that 
they were unguarded. The whole was under the com- 
mand of Evan Shelby, he being the senior and ranking 
oflScer; but among the troops were Sevier and Isaac 
Shelby, and several others competent to lead an army. 

By the windings of the river the distance was three 
hundred miles, and they would enter an unknown wilder- 
ness which only one man among them had ever visited 
by water. The river was on the spring freshet, and 
this had increased the usually rapid current to a most 
dangerous velocity ; besides, their pilot — named Hudson 
— told them that a part of the route was over dangerous 
shoals and through furious rapids, where a single false 
stroke might send their frail craft to the bottom. 

There was need, therefore, of care and skill to escape 
the perils of the river, and of silence and watchfulness 
to avoid the dangers of the land — ^for, seen by any rov- 
ing savage, their movements plight be made known to 
Oconostota. The little army had, in fact, undertaken 
a most hazardous enterprise. It was plunging into an 
unknown region, to attack a strongly posted force of 

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three times its number, when, by its yery moyements, 
it would create an enemy in its rear of about twice its 
own strength, and capable of doing it vital injury. So, 
silently the men plied their oars, and narrowly they 
watched the forests and undergrowth that lined the 
banks of the river. With muffled paddles, and at dead 
of night, they passed the mouth of the Little Tennes- 
see, near which lay Oconostota and his twelve hundred 
warriors ; and soon afterward, with a bolder sweep, they 
pulled out of the Holston, and into the safer, because 
broader, Tennessee. 

In the early morning of the 13th of April they 
rounded to at the mouth of Chickamauga Creek, within 
a short distance of the lair of Dragging Canoe. The 
town stretched for a mile or more along the bank of 
a stream lined with canebrakes, the lower portion of 
which was now submerged by the freshet, so that the 
canoes could approach, entirely concealed, to the very 
doorways of the wigwams. About five hundred warriors 
occupied this place, the remainder having their homes 
in towns! located at intervals lower down the river. 

As the first boat came to land, the men in it en- 
countered a solitary Indian, whom they made a prison- 
er, promising him his life if he would faithfully guide 
them to the quarters ol Dragging Canoe. This the 
savage did, and a scene of the wildest confusion followed. 
Taken by surprise, and panic-stricken, the Indians made 
scarcely any resistaiice, but fled precipitately to the ad- 
jacent woods and mountains. Forty warriors were killed 

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on the spot, and Dragging Canoe and the rest were 
hunted to iDaccessible jungles aud mountain recesses 
where the troops could not penetrate. Meanwhile^ a 
guard being placed over the magazine where was stored 
the British gunpowder, the torch was applied to eyery 
dwelling in Chickamauga, and soon all that was left of 
the town was a mass of smoking cinders. 

While this was going on, detachments were dispatched 
to the other towns along the river, and, before darkness 
came upon that day, no less than eleyen conflagrations 
marked the spots where had stood as many Indian vil- 
lages. Not a hut was spared, not a measure of meal, 
nor an article of provision. Twenty thousand bushels 
of corn were destroyed, and the routed waniors were 
left without subsistence, or any powder with which to 
secure game from the forest. Besides the great quan- 
tity of arms and ammunition, the troops captured one 
hundred and fifty horses, a hundred head of cattle, and 
large stores of goods which the British had accumulated 
for distribution among their Northern allies. 

The work of destruction over, the troops broke up 
their boats, and, loading the spoils upon the captured 
horses, returned to their homes through the forest 
The march was long and toilsome, but, before the close 
of a month, every man was at his home on the Hol- 
ston or the Watauga. Thus speedily, and without the 
loss of a single life, did this small band of backwoods- 
men destroy the vast coalition that was intended to 
sweep the border settlements from existence. For at 

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least a year to come the Southwestern Indians would 
be powerless — they could not subsist without com, nor 
fight without ammunition, and, cooped up as the British 
soon were in SaTannah, they were unable to lend them 
any assistance. 

And here I would again call attention to the fact 
that two small bodies of men, acting without concert^ 
and widely apart, frustrated, for a second time, the 
gigantic plan by which the British commander expect- 
ed to wind an anaconda coil about the Southern colo- 
nies. It is within the scope of credibility to assign one 
such occurrence to what may be termed *' a fortuitous 
concourse of events," but can we in reason so account for 
two such occurrences ? And what if a third, quite as 
remarkable, should follow within a little more than a 
year, in which these same backwoodsmen would be the 
important actors ? 

Had the front been as successfully defended as the 
rear, the close of the year 1779 might haye seen the 
end of British domination in America. But it was not 
so to be. For two long years the Southern sea-coast 
was to be furrowed with the red plowshare of war, 
and it was to be rescued at last from the clutch of the 
British lion by these same oTer-mountain men who 
had thus far so bravely stood as the rear-guard of the 
Eevolution. At the occurrences on the sea-coast I shall 
have to glance briefly in another chapter ; now I must 
note in its chronological order an event which had an 
important bearing upon the progress of Western civili- 

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zation. This was the departure of James Robertson 
from Watauga, and his settlement with a body of emi- 
grants, on the Cumberland, at a distance of fifteen 
days' trayel from the most westerly of the white settle- 

Though Sevier was the master-spirit and moving 
spring of every event beyond the Alleghanies, Robert- 
son was nominally the " head man " in the Watauga 
community ; and he was honored, trusted, and beloved, 
by every man, woman, and child, throughout the scat- 
tered settlements. Moreover, he was a man of marked 
and decided character, and his most characteristic trait, 
shown on numberless occasions through a long career, 
was strong, practical common sense. While he had 
the cool intrepidity that could confront, and by sheer 
moral force subdue, a horde of hostile Cherokees, he never 
ventured needlessly into danger. He waS: superlatively 
cautious, looking always before he leaped, and never 
adopting a course until he had carefully weighed all its 
consequences. What, then, could be his motive in now 
leaving the ease, security, and comparative opulence he 
had acquired during ten long and perilous years, to 
plunge again amid the hardships, privations, and dangers 
of a distant wilderness, where he would be surrounded 
by savage foes, and far beyond all hunian succor ? The 
answer, I think, is to be gathered from the phrase that 
was ever on his lips, *^Man proposes, but God disposes/* 
The feeling was upon him which was upon Luther when 
he said : '^ God hurries and drives me. I am not mas- 

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ter of myself ; I wish to be quiet, but am hurried into 
the midst of tumults." The Scotch Presbyterianism, in 
which he bad been educated^ had reyealed to him an 
Oyerruling Mind, directing all human affairs. That 
Power had not so strangely saved his life ten years be- 
fore without a purpose, which purpose it had gradually 
dawned upon him was that he should be the forerun- 
ner of civilization in the Western wilderness. This being 
his settled conviction, he was prepared to mak^ every 
sacrifice and endure every hardship that came in the 
way of what seemed to him duty. And so, I believe, 
it has been with all men who have done any special 
work which has greatly benefited the world. They 
have recognized an invisible guiding, which has led 
them at times into acts that to mere worldly wisdom 
have seemed the extreme of folly. 

Robertson and Sevier were as hand and brain to 
one another. There was between the two that union of 
mind and soul which comes only to men who have the 
same aims and aspirations, and who have shared deadly 
perils together. And now Sevier remonstrated with 
Bobertson. It was folly to leave his well- won honors ; 
it was madness to tempt again the dangers of an un- 
trodden wilderness. Then Robertson, reticent with all 
others, but ever open with Sevier, disclosed to him his 
plans and purposes. The result was that Sevier said, 
'^ Go, and I will go with you." But to this Robert- 
son would not consent. The Watauga settlements, he 
said, without Sevier, would soon be broken up and 

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the settlers driyen beyond the mountains. No other 
leader than he conld carry them through the gloomy 
years that might be before them. They were both sol- 
diers of ciyilization, and each had his allotted duty. It 
was Robertson's to lead the adyance^ Seyier's to guard 
the rear. Let each one do his allotted work, and leaye 
the results to the Supreme Disposer. 

This is, in substance, what was said between Seyier 
and Robertson ; and then they parted, to meet again only 
at long interyals for sixteen years, when Sevier had 
crushed the Cherokees, and, at the head of a great State, 
enforced a lasting peace upon the border. But this, 
and the subsequent career of Robertson, I shall haye to 
recount in another yolume. 

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Now, for more than a year, peace preyailed along 
the entire Western frontier. George Kogers Clark, soon 
after the fall of Vincennes, captured the British posts 
on the Wabash and in the Illinois country, and this, 
with the continued captiyity of Governor Hamilton, 
prevented any further attempt at a coalition of the 
Northern Indians. The Southern tribes had been ren- 
dered powerless, for the time, by the loss of their am- 
munition at Chickamauga; and, moreover, their most 
enterprising chieftain. Dragging Canoe, could not move 
until he had planted and harvested a crop of com to 
carry his people through the winter. 

This condition of things being speedily known eafit 
of the mountains, it induced a fresh tide of emigra- 
tion from the seaboard, which soon added materially to 
the strength of Sevier and his backwoodsmen. During 
the entire summer and autumn of 1779 every road 
and every mountain trace leading into the new terri- 
tory was crowded with hardy adventurers, seeking homes 
beyond the reach of the red-coated soldiery of Bang 
George, On the frontier they might be exposed to the 

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inroads of the sayages ; but this danger they could meet 
if led by Serier, the &me of whose exploits had already 
trayeled far beyond the mountains. To the Indians his 
name had become a terror, but to the settlers it was a 
pledge of good order and security. Thus was the tame 
of one man largely instrumental in building up a great 

Early in 1779 the British had overrun the larger 
part of Georgia. Defeating General Ashe at Brier Creek, 
they projected an expedition against Charleston, but 
were repulsed at Stono Ferry, and driren back to Sa- 
vannah, where, in October, they were besieged by a force 
under General Lincoln. The attack failed, and the 
Americans were forced to retreat, with the loss, among 
others, of the brave Count Pulaski. This closed the 
campaign of 1779; and Sir Henry Clinton prepared for 
another and stronger effort for the reduction of the 
Carolinas. He determined that both front and rear 
should be again infolded in the coil of the anaconda; 
and, if the rear attack should fail, the front should be 
made in such force as to render it irresistible. 

Accordingly, after enjoying his Christmas dinner in 
Kew Tork, the British commander on the following day 
went on board the fleet of Admiral Arbuthnot, and set 
sail, with seventy-five hundred men, for Charleston. 
He was soon followed by Lord Eawdon, with an addi- 
tional body of twenty-five hundred, and on the lltb of 
February the combined forces were landed on John's 
Island, in the vicinity of Charleston. The city made 

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a stubborn defense, but on the 12tli of May General 
Lincoln was obliged to capitulate with his entire army. 

The fall of Charleston decided the fate of South 
. Carolina ; but, to make sure of its complete subjugation, 
and as a step in the northward march of his army, 
Clinton dispatched three expeditions into the interior. 
One of these, under Lieutenant-Colonel Browne, was to 
reoccupy Augusta, open communications with the South- 
em Indians, and supply them with arms and ammuni- 
tion for another rising ; another, under Lieutenant-Colo- 
nel Cruger, was to oyerrun and subdue the country 
around Ninety-six ; and the third, a larger force, under 
Lord Comwallis, was to march directly northward and 
disperse some bodies of patriots who were understood 
to be gathering on the borders of North Carolina. This 
done, the three bodies were to unite and carry the war 
into North Carolina and Virginia; and it was hoped 
that a junction would be formed with the army in New 
York, and the whole country south of the Hudson be 
subjugated, before the close of the campaign. Such was 
the brilliant dream of Sir Henry Clinton, which, had it 
come to pass, would have changed the fate of the Amer- 
ican Continent. But, like his previous dream, it was 
to be rudely dispelled, and by the same means — the 
sharp rifle-crack of a few hardy backwoodsmen. 

A rapid conquest of the whole of South Carolina, 
from the sea-coast to the mountains, was the result of 
these expeditions. The march of the British was an un- 
interrupted triumph. Everywhere the people submitted. 

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took British '* protections," or were paroled as prisonens. 
The country was full of Tories, who now flocked to the 
royal standard in great nnmbers, augmenting at their 
every step the strength of the British forces. A few 
small bodies of patriots remained in arms after the fall 
of Charleston ; but these were soon cut to pieces, or 
driven across the line into North Carolina, where, hid- 
ing in swamps and forests, they hoped to recruit suffi- 
cient strength to be able to harass the outskirts of the 
advancing enemy. Among these last were Sumter and 
Marion, who had already acquired fame as partisan sol- 
diers. In less than a month from the fall of Charles- 
ton the only organized force of patriots within the limits 
of South Carolina were a few hundred mounted militia, 
who had their headquarters at the Cherokee Ford of 
Broad River. They were principally North Carolinians, 
under the command of Colonel Charles McDowell, of 
Quaker Meadows, in Burke County ; but with them were 
about a hundred Georgians, under the indomitable Eli- 
jah Clarke, and about thirty South Carolinians, under 
the brave Colonel James Williams, whose plantation, in 
the district of Ninety-six, was soon occupied by the 
British commander, Ferguson, as his headquarters. 

Thus the whole of Georgia and South Carolina lay 
prostrate at the feet of the invader. So complete was 
the subjugation of the two colonies, that they were re- 
garded, and spoken of, by the patriots in Virginia as 
*^ the lost provinces." * Seeing the success of the various 

♦Lee's "Memoirs," vol. L 

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British movements, and deeming that there was now no 
obstacle to the full success of his wide-sweeping plan 
for the subjugation of the entire country. Sir Henry 
Clinton, on the 5th of June, embarked for New York, 
leaving to Lord Comwallis the task of carrying the 
war into North Carolina, and thence, through Virginia, 
northward. At this tim.e strong detachments of British 
held Augusta and Ninety-six, and a larger force, under 
Lord Eawdon, had advanced as far north as Camden. 

But the heats of July and August are unfavorable 
to the movement of troops upon the seaboard of the 
Carolinas, and Comwallis decided to suspend his north- 
ward march until the autumn months, when the har- 
vests should have been gathered, and he could sus- 
tain his army at a distance from his base of supplies at 
Charleston. In the mean time he would send forward 
to Augusta arms and ammunition, to equip the Creeks 
and Cherokees for the intended rising; and dispatch 
a competent oflScer into the back country, to recruit 
and embody the loyalists who occupied the mountain- 
region and the district along the base of the Allegbanies. 
Already a body of eight hundred, under a Colonel Bry- 
an, had joined the British forces, and another was be- 
ing organized by Colonel Patrick Moore, a noted Tory, 
on the borders of North Carolina. 

Among these mountain people were' many of respect- 
able character, well-to-do, peaceable, and order-loving ; 
but much the larger number then, as now, were of a 
very " low-down '* description. They were mostly de- 

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Valentine Sevier, brother of John Sevier ; and Colonels 
James Williams and Thomas Brandon, the last two resi- 
dents of the district and familiar with its every by- 
path. At that very time Ferguson was encamped on 
Brandon's plantation. 

The troops set oat from Smith's Ford about an honr 
before snnset, on the 18th of Angnst, two days subse- 
quent to the battle of Camden, of which great disaster 
they were as yet in ignorance. They kept to the woods 
until after dark, and then took a road which passed some 
three or four miles to the west of Ferguson's encamp- 
ment It was a hard ride of forty miles, most of the 
way upon a gallop, but at the dawn of day they were 
within half a mile of the enemy. Here they sent out a 
small party of scouts to reconnoitre, and, while awaiting 
their return, encountered a countryman who told them 
that the Tories had been re-enforced during the previous 
night by six hundred regular troops, under a Colonel 
Ennes, of the British army. With them were Captain 
Abraham De Peyster, second in command to Ferguson ; 
Captain David Fanning, a noted loyalist partisan ; Major 
Fraser, of the regular army, and other skillful officers. 

Hastily the patriot leaders gathered together for con- 
sultation. Beyond a doubt the information was cor- 
rect — it was too much in detail to be otherwise; but 
what should be done in the circumstances ? To attack 
a well-posted body of regular troops of nearly twice 
their number would be sheer madness ; but to attempt 
a retreat, their horses broken down by a hard ride of 

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forty miles, was impossible. While consulting together, 
they heard a sharp firing at a short distance. It was 
the scouts, who had encountered a patrol of the enemy, 
killing one and wounding two, and sending the rest in 
precipitate flight to the British camp. Soon the scouts 
came in, reporting this skirmish, and then it became 
certain that the British would soon know that the 
Americans were in the yicinity, and would sally out to 
attack them. Thus, there was now no alternative — they 
must stand their ground and encounter greatly superior 

They threw up a hasty breastwork of brush and de- 
cayed logs, and formed in a semicircular line across the 
road, which here climbed a ridge, thickly overgrown 
with trees and underbrush, which would effectually con- 
ceal them from the enemy. In the space of thirty min- 
utes they were in readiness for attack, strongly posted 
behind a breast-high intrenchment* Then Shelby sent 
forward Captain Shadrach Inman, who had served brave- 
ly against the British and Tories in Georgia, with twen- 
ty-five mounted men, to lure the enemy on, and tempt 
them to cross the river. The ruse worked admirably. 
Plunging into the stream, the British came on with 
charged bayonets. Captain Inman falling slowly back, 
and keeping up a show of fighting. At last, when the 
British were within seventy yards of the concealed 
breastwork, Inman and his men scattered into the woods 
along the road-side, and then from behind the breast- 
work the Americans poured a destructive volley into the 

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ranks of the advancing enemy. The orders of Shelby 
were, " Don't fire till you see the whites of the Tories' 
eyes ! '^ or, as by another account, " Till you can count 
the buttons on their coats I " and in the hands of those 
unerring marksmen every rifle did bloody execution. 
For half an hour the firing continued ; and then Will- 
iam Smith, of Watauga, shouted, '*Fve killed their 
commander!'' and about the same instant young Bob- 
ei*t Bean, the son of William Bean, the first settler, ex- 
claimed that he had unhorsed Major Eraser, the second 
in command. Then Shelby raised the famous Tennes- 
see yell, and rushed out with his men upon the enemy. 
The British bravely contested the ground for a short 
distance, falling slowly back, but soon their retreat be- 
came a rout, and they fled down the road, through the 
woods, and over the hills to the river. With reckless 
speed they rushed to the ford, through which they 
plunged in the wildest confusion, hotly pursued by the 
victorious backwoodsmen. Sixty-three were killed, ninety 
wounded, and seventy taken prisoners. Of the Ameri- 
cans only four were killed and eight or nine wounded ; 
but among the killed was the brave Inman, who had 
contributed so largely to the success of the battle. The 
disparity in the losses was owing to the fatal aim of the 
Watauga riflemen, and to their being shielded, during 
most of the fight, by the hastily constructed breast- 

* According to their custom, the over-mountain men 
had dismounted to fight the battle. Their horses were 

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tethered in a dense wood in the rear, out of range of the 
firing; and now, the British having fled across the 
Enoree, every man sprang into his saddle to give a more 
rapid pursuit to the enemy. While this was being done, 
Shelby, Clarke, Brandon, and Williams came together, 
as if by instinct, for a hurried consultation. It was the 
one wish of the last two mentioned to free their home 
district from the presence of the enemy. Ninety-six was 
but twenty miles away. They could be there by sun- 
set, and, taken by surprise, Cruger would have no alter- 
native but surrender. Ninety-six taken, Augusta was 
only fifty miles farther away, and there Comwallis had 
accumulated a vast amount of warlike stores to arm the 
Creeks and Cherokees. The fort there was defended 
by Colonel Browne with only a hundred and fifty Brit- 
ish regulars. It could be quickly carried by assault, 
and, the arms and ammunition it contained being capt* 
ured, there would be hope of another interval of peace 
to the settlements beyond the mountains. 

Shelby was rapid in decision as well as fertile in re- 
source. He saw the great advantages that might result 
from the movement, and instantly he resolved upon the 
expedition. He was about to give the order to march, 
when a horseman rode up in hot haste to the little group 
of officers. He was covered with the foam and dust of 
nearly fifty miles of hard riding. He handed a letter 
to Shelby from McDowell, which inclosed one addressed 
to the latter from Governor Caswell, of North Carolina. 
This last was dated from the battle-field of Camden^ and 

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apprised McDowell of the great disaster. The army, 
which had been so long gathering under Gates and De 
Kalb to stay the northward march of Gomwallis^ had 
been utterly routed^ and its broken fragments were then 
fleeing in all directions^ not to pause in their flight till 
a hundred and flfty miles lay between them and the field 
of battle. ^' The enemy will no doubt/* added the Gov- 
ernor, " endeayor to improye his victory by cutting up 
all the small corps of Americans ; therefore, let every 
separate detachment get out of the way as quickly as 
possible." Being questioned, the messenger said that 
McDowell was already moving toward Gilbert Town, a 
small hamlet at the base of the mountains in North 

There was no room to question the information, for 
Shelby was familiar with the handwriting of the Gov- 
ernor. He had corresponded with him, and his signa- 
ture was affixed to his own commission as colonel. 
Therefore, hQ accepted the truth, and with lightning- 
glance his quick mind took in the situation. He saw 
that all was lost east of the mountains ; that from the 
Potomac to Southern Georgia the British rode trium- 
phant> and, except in forests and morasses, .there was 
nowhere a hiding-place for a patriot. Everjrwhere 
would soon be heard the hated tramp of the red dra- 
goon — everywhere but in that lone eyrie of the eagle 
beyond the AUeghanies. There Freedom had still a 
home, and that home she would keep unpolluted by 
hostile tread, or, sword in hand,. Shelby would die with 

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Sevier and his mountain-men. Such was the quick re- 
solye of this man of iron — iron fused now into steel by 
the fiery trial through which his country was passing. 
He ordered the seventy prisoners to be mounted behind 
as many of his troops, and then, with one wave of his 
hand, he said, " Now, boys, to the mountains I " 

There was need of haste, for already the fugitives 
from the battle were half-way to Ferguson's encampment, 
and, before another hour, he would be in rapid pursuit 
with fresh men and horses. Shelby's horses were jaded, 
his men exhausted by fifteen hours of constant marching 
and fighting ; but no sooner was the word given, than 
they were on their way, straight as the bird flies, for the 
Alleghanies. All that August day, all that sultry night, 
and all the following day they marched, never once 
drawing rein till they were sixty miles away in the 
mountain-region. The horses nibbled the corn-stalks 
that stood in the fields through which they were pass- 
ing, and the men ate the raw ears and a few peaches that 
grew along the road-side. At last they halted, after 
forty-eight hours of such fatigue as men seldom endure, 
and then scarcely one among them could recognize his 
most intimate a,cqiiaintanc6. The faces of all were so 
bloated, their eyes so swollen, as to have altogether lost 
their characteristic appearance. As Shelby had expected, 
they were pursued by a strong force of Ferguson's 
mounted men, who followed their trail till the close of 
the day of the battle. Then, only thirty minutes behind 
the retreating patriots, the British went into camp, too 

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much exhausted with the intense heat to proceed farther. 
Thus was the right wing of the rear-guard trained by 
both victory and defeat to do far more effectual battle 
for its country. 

And now the braye little army broke into pieces. 
Shelby and his men took the Indian trail oyer the 
mountains to Watauga; Williams, with a suflScient 
guard, set out by unfrequented ways to a safe asylum 
with the prisoners; but Clarke, with but a hundred 
men, faced south, right into the British lines, deter- 
mined to capture Augusta. His State was trampled 
underfoot, his wife and children were homeless, and he 
himself was an outlaw with a price upon his head ; but 
to this indomitable man all was not lost so long as he 
could wield a sword or carry a musket. He crept slowly 
along the base of the mountains, gathering strength as 
he went, and, in the early days of September, with seven 
hundred men, swooped down upon Augusta. Browne 
he cooped up in the fort without food or water ; a large 
body of Cherokees, who were there for arms and ammu- 
nition, he scattered to the four winds ; and the prize was 
all but in his grasp, when Cruger with a strong force 
from Ninety-six came upon him, and he was forced to 
retreat to the mountains. The word went that he was 
fleeing north, and, to capture him, Ferguson delayed a 
junction with Comwallis long enough to enable the 
over-mountain men to come up with him at King's 
Mountain. Had Clarke not been a fugitive, that turn- 
ing battle of the Eevolution would not have been fought. 

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nor Gornwallis been checked in his yictorions march 
northward. Thus, reading history at the end of a cent- 
urjy we see that disaster is sometimes a necessary prelude 
to victory. 

Bnt these devoted men did not see events as we see 
them. To them this was the darkest hour of the Revo- 
lution. Even Washington, writing to Steuben, said, 
** The prospect is gloomy, and the storm threatens " ; 
and to General Reed, ^'I have almost ceased to hope." 
But the darkness is deepest just before the dawn, and 
even now, amid this intense gloom, a cloud is gathering 
far away upon the Alleghanies — a cloud no larger than 
a man's hand, but which is forging the lightning-bolt 
that shall rend in pieces the British power in the colo- 
nies. The bursting of that small cloud will clear the 
sky, and thenceforward, in the sunlight of success, the 
American arms will move on to assured and final vic- 

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BuT^ while gloom overspreads the seaboard^ there are 
feasting and jollity beyond the Alleghanies. The In- 
dians are still upon their good behavior. They have 
not yet been famished with their fnll snpply of powder, 
and^ nntil they are^ Oconostota will not move^ for on 
this occasion he intends to make sure of driving the set- 
tlers far east of the mountains ; and Comwallis designs 
that he shall penetrate into Southwest Virginia as far 
as the present town of Wytheville, and seize there the 
Chiswell lead-mines^ which are the sole source of Bnp- 
ply for the border patriots. So the Indian king waits in 
grim impatience the arrival of the arms and ammunition 
which Clarke will soon have so nearly in his grasp at 
Augusta. But the Chickamaugas are restless. With ten 
grains of powder in their pouches they can not keep 
still ; so, a small body ventures upon an insignificant 
raid against the settlement at the mouth of Flat Creek, 
on the Nolichucky. They are easily repulsed by Major 
Jonathan Tipton, who is second in command to Sevier, 
while Charles Robertson is absent in South Carolina. 

Having, therefore, nothing to do, Sevier occupies his 

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leisure by getting np^ for the 14th of August^ a grand 
celebration at his rambling log-palace on the Nolichncky. 
It is snch a celebration as occurs to most men only once 
in a lifetime ; but to Seyier it comes twice, for he is an 
exceptional man, not to be confined to the limits, nor 
judged by the rules, which are applied to the ordinary 
run of humanity. To it he invites all his friends — ^which 
term with him includes eyery man, woman, and child 
in the territory. And from far and near they come, a 
greater gathering than ever yet was seen west of the 
Alleghanies. They overflow the spacious dwelling, and 
gather in joyous groups about the green lawn that slopes 
down to the rapid Nolichucky. Here, under the old 
wide-spreading trees, are long tables that will seat several 
thousands, and near by a couple of huge oxen, split from 
head to tail, are roasting upon large gridirons over char- 
coal-fires. For this is a genuine backwoods barbecue, at 
which cider and apple-jack will flow freely, and there 
will be feasting and dancing till the stars grow pale upon 
the mountains. 

But, before these exercises begin, there is a short 
ceremony to be witnessed in the spacious drawing-room. 
Here is Nolichucky Jack, divested of hunting-shirt, and 
clad, "for this occasion only,'' in the uniform of a Con- 
tinental colonel ; and by his side is a tall, queenly-look- 
ing woman, superbly dressed — ^for the backwoods. Their 
hands are clasped together, and before them stands the 
grave Parson Doak, his head crowned with an unsightly 
skull-cap, but with a smile upon his face which, merely 

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to look aty is a benediction. He was one of those men 
who seem sent into the world to give ocular proof of the 
life of serene loveliness that lies above ns. He asks the 
couple a few questions, and says over them a few words, 
and then they are man and wife — Nolicbucky Jack and 
the " bonnie K^te " who four years before leaped into his 
arms over the high stockade at Watauga. Henceforth 
she is to be a mother to his manly boys, and for thirty- 
five years she will nerve his soul to such struggles as 
come to only a few men in a century. In and of him- 
self Nolichucky Jack was a hero, but, without the devo- 
tion of this noble woman, he might not always have 
been able to stand so erect as he did amid the treachery 
of friends and the constant onslaughts of his savage ene- 

The wedding viands were scarcely cold, when a body 
of horsemen wound down the mountain-side and came 
to a halt in the court-yard of Sevier's mansion. They 
were war-worn and weather-beaten. Their hunting-shirts 
were smeared with mud and stained with blood, and the 
bandaged limbs of some of them showed that they had 
received as well as given blows in some deadly encount- 
ers. Sevier came out to meet them ; and, as soon a£ they' 
caught sight of his manly form in the doorway^ they set up 
the Tennessee yell which he was the first to introduce into 
Southern warfare. Greeting and hand-shaking followed, 
and Sevier had a kindly word of recognition for every 
one of them — ^for all had been there before, and at free 
quarters. And here I may as well say that, while North 

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Carolina enrolled the men and commissioned the officers, 
she never paid one of her over-mountain soldiers a dollar. 
They fed and equipped themselves, and those not able to 
do this were furnished with outfit and supplies by the 
more wealthy among them. Sevier was a man of large 
wealth for the times, and he kept open house to all 
comers. His dwelling was the usual rendezvous on occa- 
sions of alarm, and hence he often had hundreds of his 
soldiery quartered for days upon him. Every man was 
at home in his house, and this seemed entirely natural, 
inasmuch as Sevier was so open-handed that all that he 
had, and he himself, came to be regarded as the common 
property of the community. 

From Shelby Sevier received his first accurate ac- 
count of affairs upon the seaboard ; for in those times 
news passed by word of mouth in the backwoods, and 
was not always to be entirely relied upon. Sevier recog- 
nized fully the gravity of the situation ; but he was more 
hopeful, though not less determined, than bis younger 
compatriot. He did not believe that the country could 
be wholly subjugated. There is that, he thought, in 
the Anglo-Saxon which prefers death to submission to 
a ruler not of his own selection. This was the choice 
which he and his men had taken. They should con- 
test their mountain-passes foot by foot, and if at last 
they were overrun by irresistible numbers, and death 
upon the battle-field was denied them, those that re- 
mained alive would take water down the Tennessee and 
Mississippi, and find more peaceful graves among the 

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Spaniards of LouisiaBa. Let come what might comey 
they would not live under the British Government. But 
this alternative would not be presented. If the sea- 
board should submit^ the mountains would be free. For 
more than ten years the men of Watauga had stood 
alone, battling at times with odds that were twenty to 
one against them. And they had been but a hand- 
ful, while now they counted nearly a thousand rifles. 
Among those mountain fastnesses that single thousand 
was a match for ten thousand British, and that was more 
than Comwallis had in his armies. Therefore Sevier 
bade Shelby to be of good cheer; for they never had 
been, and never would be, beaten. 

This was the natural language of Sevier's intrepid 
soul ; and, in thus estimating his own prowess, he reck- 
oned solely upon his own sword and the steady aim of 
his unerring rifles. As yet he took no account, as did 
Bobertson, of those invisible forces that do battle for 
the right — ^the horses and chariots of fire that the young 
man saw encamped round about Elisha. 

The over-mountain men dispersed to their homes, 
and Shelby rode on to his cattle-ranch at King's Mead- 
ows. But he did not remain there long. In the last 
days of August there came to him one Samuel Philips, 
a distant relative, with a message from the. British com- 
mander, Ferguson, who had advanced to the eastern base 
of the mountains in rapid pursuit of McDowell. Phil- 
ips was probably one of Shelby's men who had been 
wounded, and left behind after the battle at Musgrove's 

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MilL Taken prisoner by Ferguson, he had been hu- 
manely treated, then paroled, and sent forward to Shelby, 
with word that, if he and the others did not ^'desist 
from their opposition to the British arms, he would 
march his army over the mountains, hang the leaders, 
and lay the country waste with fire and sword." Fer- 
guson was then only sixty miles south of Watauga, and 
still moving northward after McDowell, In his army 
were a number of Tories who had been driven out from 
Watauga, and one whom Robert Sevier's horsemen had 
subjected to a coat of tar and feathers during the 
previous summer. These men were well acquainted 
with the border settlements and the mountain-passes, 
and now, their natural antagonism inflamed by bitter 
resentment, they proposed to guide Ferguson to an easy 
conquest of the over-mountain region. 

It is possible that Ferguson intended to attempt the 
execution of this threat, for the Watauga and Back- 
water districts were the only ones south of Virginia 
that did not now recognize the kingly authority ; and, 
besides, they were on the direct road to the Chiswell 
lead-mines, the capture of which he must have known 
was deemed a capital object by Comwallis. But, how- 
ever this may have been, his idle words were prolific 
of grave results ; to borrow the phrase of Robertson, 
"Never was threat so impotent and yet so powerful." 

Their first result was to put Shelby upon horseback 
for a ride of forty miles to the house of Sevier, on the 
Nolichucky. Sevier was not at home, but twenty miles 

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away, attending a horse-race at the new county-seat, 
Jonesboro — for, even in these soul-trying times, Noli- 
chucky Jack could think of whatever was likely to im- 
prove that important component of his little army, the 
fleet racer. Again Shelby mounted his horse, and in a 
few hours had repeated to Sevier the message he had 
received from Ferguson. 

The details of this important interview, and which 
of the two men first proposed the heroic enterprise of 
which it was the inception, can not be positively stated. 
I am not aware that Sevier was ever known to speak of 
it ; and, if he did, his love of Shelby, and modest reti- 
cence in regard to his own achievements, would most 
likely have led him to attribute the larger credit to 
his younger compatriot. But a careful consideration of 
what has been written by Shelby, and what is known of 
Sevier, leads to the conclusion that the idea of the expe- 
dition originated with the soldier, all whose tactics were 
comprised in the one word, attack — ^sudden, sharp, vig- 
orous, and in the enemy's country. Writing about the 
battle of King's Mountain, in 1823, Shelby said : '* I went 
fifty or sixty miles to see Colonel Sevier, who was the 
efficient commander of Washington County, North Caro- 
lina, to inform him of the message I had received, and 
to concert with him measures for our defense. After 
some consultation, we determined to march with all the 
men we could raise, and attempt to surprise Ferguson 
by attacking him in his camp, or at any rate before he 
was prepared for us. We accordingly appointed a time 

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and place of rendezvous." The words that I have itali- 
cized show clearly that Shelhy had no thought of attack 
until he met Sevier, with whom, I therefore conclude, 
the whole plan of the expedition originated. Ferguson 
had bearded the lion in his lair. From the nature of 
the man it was inevitable that he should spring from 
his covert, pounce down upon the boastful Briton and 
destroy him. 

The result of this interview Governor Shelby relates 
as follows : ^' It was known to us that some two or three 
hundred of the militia who had been under the com- 
mand of Colonel McDowell, and were driven by the suc- 
cess of the enemy from the lower country, were then on 
the Western waters, and mostly in the county of Wash- 
ington, North Carolina. I saw some of their oflScers 
before we parted ; Colonel Sevier engaged to give notice 
to these refugees, and to bring them into our measure. 
On my part, I undertook. to procure the aid and co-oper- 
ation of Colonel William Campbell, of Washington Coun- 
ty, Virginia, and the men of that county, if practicable." 

For two whole days these two men conferred to- 
gether, and the Fates were busy while they talked with 
each other in that rude log mansion on the Noli- 
chucky. For this was a pivotal event, and on their 
decision hung, perhaps, the course of centuries. What 
passed between them is not known, but I can imagine 
it; for once, at a like pivotal period, I sat by while Chase 
and Lincoln discussed measures on which depended the 
fate of this nation. As they weighed one course against 

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another, scanned the present, and tried to forecast the 
future, the great curtain seemed to uproU before me, and 
disclose to my view those hidden forces which control 
our human destiny. For we are but puppets, moved at 
the will of higher powers — ^powers that are of good, and 
BO, however deep the gloom, we may take heart and 
have courage. 

If my view of these two men be correct, it was Shel- 
by who proposed to act on the defensive — to guard the 
mountain-passes, and hang upon Ferguson's flank and 
rear, and thus decimate and finally destroy him. But, 
if this were done, who would manage the latent Tories 
among them, and meet the coming onslaught of the 
Creeks and Cherokees ? Might not the settlers thus be 
caught between two fires, and be crushed by overwhelm- 
ing numbers ? Would it not be better to cross the 
mountains, annihilate Ferguson, and then turn upon 
the Indians ? Thirty days would finish Ferguson, and 
meanwhile the settlers who should remain at home could 
be gathered into forts, where they could hold Oconostota 
at bay until the return of the expedition. Ferguson's 
army was the left wing of Comwallis, and that destroyed, 
or even badly broken, the British general would be 
forced to fall back upon Charleston, and thus give the 
patriots time to rally and recover their lost country. 
This plan, so bold and so comprehensive, was worthy of 
the genius of Sevier. It was the one adopted ; and a 
rendezvous was at once appointed for the 26th of Sep- 
tember, at the Sycamore Shoals of the Watauga. 

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A bolder enterprise is, I think, not recorded in the 
history of any people. From the Wolf Hills to the 
Nolichucky they could not, all told, muster a thousand 
rifles. In their front, not sixty miles away, were gather- 
ing not less than five thousand well-armed savages ; and 
in their rear, just over the mountains, were hordes of 
banded Tories, and a well-drilled British army, said to 
number twenty-five hundred. And yet these men pro- 
posed to divide in the presence of this cloud of enemies, 
and to hurl only half their force against those British 
bayonets, across two hundred miles of country, with no 
supplies, and no arms except their trusty rifies I Men 
occasionally do heroic deeds in the stress of desperate 
circumstances. But the situation of the settlers was by 
no means desperate. It was no vainglorious boast of 
Sevier that his one thousand among those mountains 
would be a match for a British ten thousand ; and his 
men had too often beaten the Cherokees to fear a raid 
from Oconostota. An Indian fight had no more terror 
to them than a hunting-frolic, and it was not near so 
exciting as a horse-race. What, then, could prompt 
them to be now the forlorn hope of the country ? Not, 
surely, pay, for her debts North Carolina paid in prom- 
ises, and her promises had now a market value of only 
one cent on the dollar ! Not glory, for they knew their 
names would never be so much as mentioned east of 
the Alleghanies. It Was, and it could have been, noth- 
ing but a pure hatred of oppression, and a pure love 

for liberty. The spirit was upon them which was upon 
10 • 

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Gideon when he marshaled his three hundred^ and so^ 
though but a handful, they became a Host, irresistible 
and inyineible. 

Shelby gone to carry out his part of the programme, 
Sevier called his couriers together, to rouse the settle- 
ments and gathOT up the scattered fragments of McDow- 
ell's army. On fleet horses they go over forest-trails 
and mountain-paths and traveled roads, and as they go 
there echoes everywhere the cry : **The red-coats are 
coming ! Bally for Chucky Jack and freedom ! ^' As 
words leap upon the electric wire, as fire flashes along 
a powder-train, so the message sped from mouth to 
mouth, from hamlet to hamlet, from farm-house to farm- 
house, till the whole territory broke into a blaze of indig- 
nant fire, amid which men grasped their rifles, leaped 
upon their horses, and hurried away to the rendezvous. 
The whole country rose, and all — ^men and women, 
beardless youth and gray-haired age — came together on 
that September day under those old oaks along the Wa- 

And then occurred a scene such as never before or 
since has been witnessed in history. Every man was 
eager to be led against the enemy ; but all could not go, 
for a half must remain to guard the settlements. So, 
that none might have cause of complaint, a draft was re- 
sorted to — a draft to decide, not who should go, but who 
should be compelled to stay at home I Among those not 
drafted for the home-guard was Joseph, the elder son of 
Sevier, who, being eighteen, came just within the limit ; 

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but his younger brother, James, was not yet sixteen, and 
so was shut off from the enrollment. But the boy was 
bound to go, and, being refused by his father, applied to 
his young mother to intercede for hiuL She took him 
to Seyier and said, ^^Here, Mr. Sevier, ia another of 
your boys who wants to go to the war ; but we have no 
horse for him, and, poor fellow, it is too great a distance 
for him to walk." The horse was got, and the boy went 
" to the war," and fought like a man at King's Mountain. 
Horses were scarce, for many had been recently stolen 
by the Indians, and some of the men, too, were short of 
necessary equipments. These last could be had for pay 
from the few stores scattered about the settlements, but 
Sevier's exchequer was exhausted from frequent drafts 
of a similar nature, and not a man among his neigh- 
bors had a dollar of any kind of currency. All had 
expended their ready means in taking up their lands, 
or in paying taxes to the entry-taker. He— John Adair 
— ^had all the money in the territory. The expedition 
seemed about to be retarded, perhaps altogether frus- 
trated, because of Sevier's lack of means to pay for the 
equipment of his soldiery. Kev6r before did so much 
hang upon the possession of a small amount of legal cur- 
rency. But in this emergency Sevier bethought him of 
Adair, and, going to him, suggested that he should loan 
to him and Shelby whatever moneys he had collected. 
The following was Adair's answer : " Colonel Sevier, I 
have no right to make any such disposition of this 
money ; it belongs to the impoverished treasury of North 

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Carolina. But, if the country is overmn by the British, 
liberty is gone. Let the money go too. Take it. If by 
its use the enemy is driven from the country, I can 
trust that country to justify and vindicate my conduct. 
Take it 1 " Sevier took it, and thus his men were fully 
equipped for the expedition. 

Years afterward, in examining some papers of Sevier's 
that had been found in the attic of a deserted house in 
Knoxville, Dr. Ramsey came upon the following re- 
ceipt, which, as the amount is exactly the same that was 
loaned by Adair to Sevier, is evidence that the latter re- 
funded the money to North Carolina, the very State for 
whose defense —yea, salvation — ^it had been expended : 

"Eec'd Jan'y 31st, 1782, of Mr. John Adair, Entry- 
taker in the county of Sullivan, twelve thousand, seven 
hundred and thirty-five dollars, which is placed to his 
credit on the Treasury books. 

*^Per Robert Lan^ieb, 
" 12. 735 Dollars. Trea£' Salisbury Dist. " 

By the 18th of September the runners had gath- 
ered together one hundred and sixty of McDowell's ref- 
ugee troops, and under Major Joseph McDowell they 
went into camp at Sycamore Shoals, impatient to be^ led 
to the recovery of their homes. Colonel Charles Mc- 
Dowell had, at the first word from Sevier, hastened over 
the mountains to learn the whereabout of Ferguson, 
rouse the patriots, and call to their aid Colonel Cleve- 
land and the rough-riders of Wilkes and Surry Counties. 

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Meanwhile Shelby had been mustering his men^ and 
applying for help from Colonel William Campbell, who 
commanded the militia of the Backwater settlements. 
He was too much occupied to ride the forty miles to 
Seven-Mile Ford ; so he sent his brother. Captain Moses 
Shelby, with a letter to Campbell The doughty Presby- 
terian had just returned from an expedition, in which he 
had, with Colonel Clereland, repulsed a raid of two hun- 
dred Tories on the Chiswell lead-mines, but he sent an- 
swer declining to follow Ferguson, and saying that he 
had decided to raise all the men he could, and march to 
the borders of Virginia, to oppose the progress of Com- 
waUis, who had already adyanced his headquarters as far 
north as the town of Charlotte, North Carolina. Not 
content with this reply, Shelby sent again to him the 
same messenger, with a request still more urgent, and at 
the same time dispatched John Adair to his kinsman 
Arthur Campbell, the commandant of the county, to 
represent the vast importance of. the expedition. This 
brought the two Campbells together, and then it was 
decided that William Campbell should join Sevier and 
Shelby, with two hundred of the best men in the settle- 
ment. Sending to Colonel Cleveland to join them on 
the march with as many men as he could muster, 
Campbell set out at once for Shelby's home at King's 
Meadows, his men proceeding under Major William Ed- 
monston, by the shorter route of the main-traveled road, 
which led direct to Watauga. 

Thus it was that, on the morning of September 25th, 

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eight hundred and forty stalwart oyer-moimtain meny 
nnder their bravest leaders^ were assembled in camp at 
Sycamore Shoals, ready to go npon the expedition. Of 
these^ one hundred and sixty were what was left of Mc-. 
DowelFs command, four hundred and eighty were ^/ tall 
Watauga boys '* under Sevier and Shelby, and the re- 
mainder were the Backwatex Presbyteriains led by Will- 
iam Campbell* A finer body of men never were brought 
together on this planet. They were uniformly tall, sin- 
ewy, and powerful Bred mostly upon the bordei?, they 
were inured to hardship and familiar with danger, and 
they had that passionate love of freedom which, bom in 
our Anglo-Saxon blood, is nowhere more fully fostered 
and developed than a.mid the free, unconventional life 
of the backwoods. Of boundless courage, and evdry one 
of them a sharp-shooter, they were more than a match 
for an equal number of the drilled soldiery of any king 
in Christendom. They might be cut down, but they 
could not be beaten. They went into battle to die or to 
conquer. In their conflicts with the Indians, defeat was 
certain death; so their fights were life-and-death strug- 
gles. The result was — whatever the odds — always vic- 
tory. Sevier and Shelby^ their two greatest leaders, 
were born generals, and so they were literally invincible. 
We may at this day thank Qoi that, in this darkest hour 
of a century, there was left this small band of heroes to 
rush to the rescue of freedom. 

As they are arrayed now under the old oak3 of that 
mighty forest, they form a picture for some great scenic 

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painter. Beneath them, in that "old field opening," 
are the bones of a long-baried race, who, it may be in 
some far-of[ age, gathered there to be, like thenx, led forth 
to battle, and around them are their mothers and wives 
and children, and the home-guard of four hundred and 
eighty who have been drafted to be left behind for their 
protection^ All have come together to witness the going 
forth of this little band, some of whom they fear will 
never return ; for all know the strait is desperate that 
calls to the front this rear-guard of the country. Nearly 
every man has his trusty horse beside him. They are 
hardy, powerful animals, strong of limb and fleet of foot, 
and accoutred now in red and yellow trappings of al- 
most barbaric splendor. The men are arrayed in home- 
spun, with hunting-shirts of buckskin or blue linsey, 
gayly decorated with fringe and tassels. In their hats, 
in lieu of plumes, are bucks' tails and sprigs of ever- 
green, and to their backs is strapped a knapsack or a 
blanket; while a buckskin wallet, filled with the meal of 
parched com, saturated with maple-sirup, dangles from 
their shoulders. This is the whole of their outfit, but 
occasionally a skillet may be seen fastened to the pommel 
of a saddle, in which they will cook the game they may 
kill on the expedition. Their arms are a stout hunting- 
knife, which each one carries in his girdle, and the long 
Deckard rifle that now rests against his shoulder* Their 
march will be hindered by no tents or camp equipage, 
no baggage or baggage-wagons. Their subsistence will 
be water from the brooks and the parched com in their 

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knapsacks ; their bivouac the spreading trees, with the 
broad heaven above them. Thus lightly encumbered, 
they will move like the wind, or rather like some dark, 
electric cloud, from which, every now and then, leaps 
forth the lightning. They are good for forty miles a 
day, and can march and fight for forty-eight hours with- 
out rest or refreshment, as they showed when led by 
Shelby on the Musgrove's Mill expedition. 

For among them are those same men and that same 
leader — the steel-sinewed youth who, a few years before, 
turned the tide at Long Island Flats and Point Pleasant. 
And there, too, is Sevier, who is incarnate victory, who 
never strikes but he discomfits the enemy. He is the 
idol of them all — all love him as if he were their brother 
— as, in truth, he is, for his great heart infolds them all. 
Ardent and impetuous, he is also wary and far-seeing. 
He moves among them now with a free word for all, and 
that word is to every man hope and inspiration. His 
dancing eye is aflame with a wild joy, as if he were al- 
ready rushing on the enemy, and in its gleam his men 
see a sure presage of victory. There, too, is the red- 
haired Campbell, huge of frame and stern of mien, and 
a host in the day of battle, and with him are Edmonston 
and Moore, who stood so like a wall at the battle of the 
Flats when Shelby's men were forming. But I need 
not single them out. They all were heroes. 

While they are gathered there, a shout goes up along 
the valley and echoes among the wood-crowned hills 
like the roll of distant thunder. It is Arthur Campbell, 

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with a re-enforcement of the stalwart Scotch Presby- 
terians of the Backwater. He has thonght overnight 
upon the expedition^ and he fears that the eight hun- 
dred and forty will not be enough to grapple with Fer- 
guson. So he issues a second call, and is soon on his 
way with another two hundred, leaving to himself only 
one third of his strength to meet the expected onset of 
the Cherokees. All told, not more than seven hundred 
men will now be left to guard a hundred miles of front- 
ier, and these are scarcely enough to man the forts and 
patrol the outlying settlements. But Sevier does not 
fear. He will be not more than a month away, and at 
the head of the home-guard will be Arthur Campbell 
and Charles Bobertson. With greetings and consulta- 
tions the day is far spent, and word now goes about 
among the troops that they are not to march till the 
morning. So they break into little groups and go into 
camp for the night in the near-by fort or under the great 
trees, the men with their wives and children about them. 
Early in the morning they all come together again 
on the camping-ground, every man with his horse and 
his rifle, ready to set out on the expedition. With 
them now is Parson Doak, the pioneer preacher of the 
region. With uncovered heads the men gather instinct- 
ively about him, and in earnest tones he asks for them 
the guidance and protection of the Giver of victory and 
the God of battles. He adds a few stirring sentences 
that make the blood leap in their veins, closing with 
the words, "Go forth, my brave men — go forth with 

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the Bword of the Lord and of Gideon I " With one ac- 
cord they take np the words^ and^ shouting, '' With the 
sword of the Lord and of onr Gideons ! " they set out on 
their perilous march in pursuit of the victorious enemy. 
Not often on this planet has there gone up such a 
shout^ and not often from its mountain recesses has 
there issued such a band of heroes to do battle for their 

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Akid the blessings and Godspeed of fathers and 
mothers, and wives and children, those warriors of the 
wilderness took their toilsome way up the rocky heights 
and into the wooded defiles of the Alleghanies. The 
most of them were on horseback, but a few followed on 
foot with the long, noiseless tread of the backwoodsman. 
Their hardy looks, their tall, athletic forms, their many- 
colored costumes and long-barreled rifles gleaming in 
the new-risen sun made a most imposing spectacle. iN'o 
drum-beat kept time to their footsteps, but silently and 
stem they climbed the stony mountain -path, intent 
upon the grim work that was before them. In single 
file, or at most two by two, they marohed, for the way 
was narrow — a mere hunter's trace through the primitive 
forest. Following the margin of a mountain-brook, they 
came, at the end of twenty miles, to the bank of Big 
Doe Eiver, a limpid stream of the purest of water. Here 
they tethered their horses among the trees, unslung their 
knapsacks, and went into biyouac for the night. 

In the morning they were early astir, and, at the dis- 
tance of four miles, came to the base of Boan Mountain, 

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one of the loftiest of the Alleghanies. Leaving it at the 
south, they ascended a gap called Bright's Trace, and 
climbed the Yellow Mountain to its summit. Behind 
them they had left mild September weather, but now 
they found, says one of their number, "the sides and 
top of the mountain coyered with snow shoe-mouth 
deep, and on the summit about a hundred acres of 
beautiful table-land, in which a spring issued and ran 
over into the Watauga." On this open space the men 
were drawn up in battalions under their several leaders, 
and exercised in their various evolutions. On discharg- 
ing their rifles, they could distinguish scarcely any re- 
port, so rare is the atmosphere on this elevated parade- 
ground, nearly a mile above the sea. Here occurred a 
slight incident that had an important influence upon the 

Two of Sevier's men — James Crawford and Samuel 
Chambers — did not answer to their names on this pai*ade, 
and it was at once surmised that they had deserted to 
Ferguson. For the hope of a paltry reward they were 
about to betray their comrades to the enemy. On the 
usual route were several passes where a hundred men 
could dispute the progress of a thousand, and, if the 
deserters made haste, the British might come upon the 
little army before it had emerged from the mountains. 
The leaders gathered hastily together, and instantly de- 
cided to change the route of the expedition. At the 
summit of the AUeghaniea the frequented trace bore 
nearly due south, but they turned now directly east into 

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the untrodden forest. Occasionally a hunter had passed 
that way, but never a man on horseback. There was no 
path ; for miles nothing but rolling stones, and pointed 
rOTks, and steep declivities, down which the horsemen 
were forced to dismount and lead their animals. They 
passed through narrow defiles and over rocky ledges, 
where a single false step would plunge man and beast 
down to swift destruction. But several miles of such 
travel brought them to Oak Hollow, a slight depression 
amid the mountains, where a limpid spring issues from a 
wooded inclosure. Here, too much exhausted to pro- 
ceed farther, they went into camp for the night. 

They were now in the midsfc of scenery that is mag- 
nificent beyond description. Towering above them were 
several of the tallest peaks of the Alleghanies, clad in 
perpetual green, and, nestling at their feet, were grassy 
hollows, sprinkled with the myrtle and rhododendron, 
and arrayed in all the brilliant hues of autumn. After 
another day of clambering through rocky ravines and 
along the bed and margin of mountain streamlets, where 
only the wolf and wild rabbit had ever dared to tread, the 
adventurous band left behind them the mountain snows 
and descended upon a valley clad in verdure, where the 
air had an almost summer mildness. In three days they 
had marched sixty miles over such a route as never yet 
was traveled by horsemen, but at last they emerged from 
Gillespie^s Gap, and beheld in the distance the smoke of 
the settlements upon the rich valleys of the upper Ca- 
tawba. Here they were joined by Colonel McDowell, 

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who had left Sevier twelve days before at the rendezvous 
on the Watauga, 

McDowell had been at his home at Quaker Meadows^ 
some forty miles away, and near the present site of Mor- 
ganton. He brought encouraging tidings. Ferguson, 
he said, was still at his quarters at or near Gilbert Town ; 
and at Quaker Meadows the over-mountain men would 
be joined by Colonel Cleveland and three or four hun- 
dred of the brave riders of Wilkes and Surry Counties. 
About as many of Sumter's men, under Colonels Hill 
and Lacey, were understood to be near Flint Hill, not 
fifty miles away, and it was probable they could be in- 
duced to join the expedition. Assured now of success, 
the little army pressed rapidly forward, resting on this, 
the fourth night of their- march, at the plantation of a 
irealthy Tory, where, says Ensign Campbell, ^^we ob- 
tained an abundance of every necessary refreshment." 

Early on the following morning they were on their 
way again, crossing before noon Silver and Linville 
Mountains, and marching thence down the northwest 
bank of the Catawba to Quaker Meadows, the home of 
the McDowells. Here they were most hospitably enter- 
tained — Major McDowell even inviting them to help 
themselves to his dry rails to feed their camp-fires. . In 
the course of the night they were joined by Colonel 
Cleveland and a well-mounted force of three hundred 
and fifty. They now numbered nearly fourteen hun- 
dred, and Ferguson lay not forty miles away, with an 
army, as they still supposed, of not less than twenty-five 

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hundred ; but feeling able to cope with him, they pressed 
still more eagerly forward. The roads now were better, 
and their adyance more rapid. They soon passed Pilot's 
Knob, and shortly after noon entered a gap in the South 
Mountain. Here a deluge of rain came down— one of 
those violent storms to which this mountain-region is 
subject — and they went into camp at a distance of about 
sixteen miles from Gilbert Town, sending out scouts to 
learn the exact position of Ferguson. 

The storm continued with the utmost violence dur- 
ing the following day, and it was not deemed pru- 
dent to move until they had more definite information 
as to the strength and position of Ferguson. In these 
circumstances the field-officers came together for con- 
sultation. The force had been raised by no less than 
five officers of equal rank, and it had, therefore> a lack 
of symmetry and organization. On going into battle it 
would be necessary to have one efficient head, and some 
one proposed they should send to General Gates for a 
general officer to command them. This was generally 
assented to, but it did not meet the views of Sevier and 
Shelby. They had come out to fight Ferguson, who 
was now only a few miles away. Gates was understood 
to be at Hillsboro, a hundred and fifty miles distant, 
and, if they delayed to hear from him, the enemy might 
elude their grasp, and get within the lines of Com- 
wallis at Charlotte. ** Then," said Governor Shelby, in 
a conversation with General Hardin, in 1819, ''it waa 
determined that a board of officers should convene each 

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nighty and decide on tfae plan of operations for the next 
day^ and that one of the officers should see those orders 
executed, as officer of the day, until they should other- 
wise conclude." As all of the superior officers, except 
Campbell, were from iN'orth Carolina, and he commanded 
the largest regiment, he was unanimously elected as the 
chief executive. McDowell was the ranking colonel, but 
he was considered too dilatory of movement for the 
emergency ; however, to save his feelings, it was agreed 
that he should proceed to General Gates for a general 
officer, leaving his regiment in charge of his brother. 
Major Joseph McDowell. 

The following morning was the seventh day of the 
march. The storm had cleared away, and, though they 
had no very definite information of Ferguson, the colo- 
nels decided to resume the pursuit. As they were about 
to set out, Sevier rode among the men, and asked 
all to come together in a circle, to "hear the news'* 
from Colonel Cleveland. Cleveland was a rough bor- 
derer, but he had a rude sort of eloquence, which al- 
ways inspired his troops with some of his own indomi- 
table spirit. The men gathered about their officers, and 
then, removing his hat, Cleveland addressed them as 
follows : 

"Now, my brave fellows, I have come to tell you the 
news. The enemy is at hand, and we must up and at 
them. Now is the time for every man of you to do his 
country a priceless service — such as shall lead your chil- 
dren to exult in the fact that their fathers were the 

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conquerors of Ferguson. "When the pinch comes, I 
shall be with you. But, if any of you shrink from shar- 
ing in the battle and the glory, you can now have the 
opportunity of backing out, and leaving ; and you shall 
have a few minutes for considering the matter." 

When Cleveland had concluded. Major McDowell 
said with a pleasant smile on his face : " Well, my good 
fellows, what kind of a story will you, who back out, 
have to relate when you get home, leaving your braver 
comrades to fight the battle and gain the victory ? " 

And then Shelby added : " You have all been in- 
formed of the offer ; you who desire to decline it will, 
when the word is given, march three steps to the rear, 
and stand ; prior to which a few more minutes will be 
granted you for consideration." 

A silence of several minutes ensued, when word was 
given by the several oflScers to their respective com- 
mands, that ''those who desired to back out should 
step three paces to the rear." Not a man stirred from 
the ranks. They glanced at one another, a glow of 
pride upon their faces, and then all around the circle 
broke out a murmur of applause. From that moment 
every man among them knew he could rely upon his 
comrades to the death. The officers shared in this feel- 
ing. "I am heartily glad,*' said Shelby to the men — 
*'I am heartily glad to see that to a man you resolve to 
meet and fight your country's foes. When we encount- 
er the enemy, don't wait for the word of command. 
Let each one of you be his own officer, and do the very 

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best you can ; taking every care yon can of yonrselyes, 
and availing yourselves of every advantage that chance 
may throw in your way. If in the woods, shelter your- 
selves, and give them Indian play; advance from tree 
to tree, pressing the enemy, and killing and disabling 
all you can. Your officers will shrink from no danger — 
they will be constantly with you, and the moment the 
enemy give way, bo on the alert, and strictly obey 

Of such material was this rear-guard of the Bevo- 
lution. Had they been less brave, less self -de voted, this 
country might have had a different history. 

Every man was then ordered to provide two meals in 
his knapsack, and to be ready to march in three hours. 
Then they set out, threading the windings of Cane 
Creek, and by night arriving in the neighborhood of Gil- 
bert Town, when, to their great chagrin, they learned 
that the game had flown. Ferguson had suddenly de- 
camped from the vicinity some days before, announcing 
his intention to march to the British station at Ninety- 

The over-mountain men arrived at Gilbert Town- on 
the 4:th of October. Four days before, the two deserters, 
Crawford and Chambers, had come to Ferguson with 
tidings of the rapid approach of the patriots through 
the defiles of the Alleghanies. From them he also 

* This report is taken from the narration of John Spetts, one of the 
surviTora of the expedition, to Lyman C. Draper, LL. D., author o( 
<«Eing*8 Mountain and its Heroes." 

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leiffned the strength and .^^ompositioxi of the patriot 
force^ and the faot that they expected to be soon joined 
by the men of Wilkes and Surry. He now mustered^ 
in camp, not more than twelve hundred men, having 
greatly depleted his pi^ny in his eagerness to capture 
Clarke on his retreat, from Augusta, to do which he had 
express orders from Cornwallis. Clarke was understood 
to be moving northward along the base of the mount- 
ains, and many of Ferguson''^ men being from that sec* 
tion, he had allowed them to go home on furlough, in 
the hope to thereby gain knowledge of Clarke's move- 
ments. Thus had Ferguson reduced his strength at the 
time of his utmost need, and thus did Clarke, by his 
very defeat, render a most essential service to his coun- 

The intelligence startled Ferguson. He saw that^ in- 
stead of intimidating the Backwater men by his threats^ 
he had merely drawn them from their mountain-coverts 
to give him battle in the open plain. His short experi- 
ence of Shelby and his men had shown him that they 
were tireless riders and brave fighters^ and re-enforced, 
as they doubtless soon would be, by Sumter's broken 
brigade, they would become an enemy too formidable 
for him to encounter in his present weakened condition. 
Quickly he saw his danger, and energetically he prepared 
to meet it. He was but eighty i^iles distant from Corn- 
wallis, and had four daiys the start of his enemy. In 
these circumstances, a timtd leader would have made 
the best of his way to his main body. But Ferguson 

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was not a timid leader. No braver man than he ever 
wore a British nniform; and such a thing as final re- 
treat neyer entered into his calculations. He was in- 
tent upon the capture of Clarke^ and now^ as it seemed 
to him^ fortune had thrown in his way a still greater 
achievement — ^the capture or destruction of the over- 
mountain men, which one blow would completely crush 
out disloyalty in North Carolina. He made his plans 
accordingly. He resolved to stay in that region to in- 
tercept Clarke ; but to elude the Backwater men until 
he had collected his scattered force, or received re-en- 
forcements, when he would give them battle, and, as 
he expressed it, "finish the business in that quarter.'* 
This resolution taken, Ferguson at once dispatched 
expresses to gather in his f urloughed men, and sent trus- 
ty messengers to Cruger and Cornwallis, asking for speedy 
re-enforcements. This done, it seemed only necessary 
to throw Sevier and the over-mountain men off his track 
for a few days, to accomplish a brilliant achievement 
that should win for him both promotion and glory. 
But Ferguson was trusting his fate to various contin- 
gencies. What if his messengers should fail to get 
through to Cornwallis ? What if his fiirloughed men, 
seeing the dark cloud that was rolling down from 
the mountains, should prefer the shelter of their mud- 
chinked cabins ? And what if among his pursuers were 
not only Shelby, who could fight and march a hundred 
miles in forty-eight hours, but Nolichucky Jack, who 
had been known to keep his saddle for a week, to ride 

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Bixtj miles a day, day in and day ont^ and whose Ten- 
nessee yell was always a knell of death and disaster to 
his enemies ? But of this man Ferguson had as yet no 
knowledge ; so he quietly put his strategy in operation, 
troubled with no misgiyings. 

Giving out that he was ahout to march to Kinety- 
six, he took the direct route to that strong British sta- 
tion. Arriving at Denard's Ford of the Broad Biver, 
late in the afternoon of Sunday, the 1st of October, he 
went into camp for the night in a strong position, and 
in the morning sent out circular letters, calling to him 
the men of that strong Tory neighborhood. Some of 
these letters have been preserved, and their urgent ap- 
peals show that, while determined to stand his ground, 
Ferguson realized the danger of his position. In them 
he styled the over-mountain men "barbarians,'^ and 
*Hhe dregs of mankind," and said: "If you wish or 
deserve to live, and bear the name of men, grasp your 
arms in a moment and run to camp. The Backwater 
men have crossed the mountains ; McDowell, Hampton, 
Shelby, and Cleveland are at their head, so that you 
know what you have to depend upon. If you choose 
to be degraded for ever and ever by a set of mongrels, 
say so at once, and let your women turn their backs 
upon you, and look out for real men to protect them ! " 

From the ford, where Ferguson was now encamped, 
Ninety-six was distant nearly a hundred miles directly 
south, while the headquarters of Comwallis, at Char- 
lotte, were only about seventy miles almost due east- 

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erly. It was not Ferguson's intention to fall back 
upon either position, but, the nearer he should get to 
CornwaJlis, the sooner would he receive his desired 
re-enforcements. To march in . that direction, and send 
his pursuers far down on the route to Ninety-six, was 
the object of his strategy. He was now in the midst of 
a dense forest, remote from any dwelling, and on the 
bank of a fordable river, which ran for twenty miles in 
the direction of Cornwallis's quarters. He had only to 
march a few miles along the bed of that river, hiding 
his footsteps in the running stream, and to capture and 
detain the few patriots of the region, to prevent intelli- 
gence of his movements from reaching Sevier and Shel- 
by when they should move down from Gilbert Town, 
They would here lose his trail, but the chances were that 
they would push directly on, believing the report that 
he was on the march to Ninety-six. Thus they would 
be wasting their strength on a southerly route, while he 
was thirty miles away at the east, and in receipt, no 
doubt, of re-enforcements from Comwallis. He could 
then easily retrace his steps to Gilbert Town, intercept 
Sevier and Shelby, and also draw the fugitive Clarke 
into the net he had laid for his compatriots. 

These were, no doubt, Ferguson's tactics, though 
there is no written evidence of it, and the exact route 
he pursued is lost to even the traditions of the neighbor- 
hood. The only record of his movements at this time 
is in the diary of Allaire, one of his lieutenants. He 
says, under date of Monday, October 2d : *' Got in mo- 

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tion at four o'clock in the afternoon; forded Broad 
River ; marched four miles ; formed in line of action, 
and lay on our arms.*' At four o'clock on the following 
morning Ferguson was again in motion, and marching 
twenty miles on the direct route to Charlotte, he went 
into camp at night about a mile east of Buffalo Creek, 
a tributary of Broad River, only two days' march from 
Comwallis, and fully twenty-five miles distant from the 
route that would be taken by his pursuers, who had not 
yet arrived at Gilbert Town. 

Here, feeling reasonably secure, Ferguson decided to 
wait his expected re-enforcements, but he sent out scouts 
to learn the exact whereabout of his enemy. For some 
reason, to him unaccountable, he had not yet- heard from 
Comwallis, and only a single company of eighty men 
had joined him from Cruger, at Ninety-six. Multi- 
tudes of Tories came to his camp, but very few of 
his furloughed troops, or men able to carry a musket. 
They were mostly aged loyalists, handier with the tongue 
than with the sword, and just now Ferguson was in 
sore need of the more cutting kind of implement. 
However, he gave courteous welcome to all, for he was a 
well-mannered gentleman, and content to talk, when he 
could not fight, for his king and country. Among his 
visitors was a venerable, white-haired man, who especially 
won his confidence. The old man's mouth was full of 
loyalty to the good king, who was so kindly serving out 
to his distant children free rations of grape and gun- 
powder ; and he hoped that every one of the over-mount- 

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ain men might partake so freely of these rations as to 
never again hunger. Like most men of decided brayery, 
Ferguson was unsuspicious and outspoken. He did not 
recognize the devil's livery of deceit in which the old 
gentleman was arrayed ; so he opened his plans to him 
freely, and told him he had just dispatched a messenger 
to Cornwallis for Tarleton and four hundred of his in- 
vincible dragoons. They would arrive in four days, at 
the latest, and then he would make short work of the 
men from the Backwater. 

What Ferguson told his aged visitor was doubtless 
true; but his dispatch never got to Cornwallis. The 
messenger probably shared the fate of the two who had 
set out with his previous dispatch from near Gilbert 
Town. Calling on their way at the house of a patriot 
for breakfast, these men allowed their haste to betray 
them, and, being then closely followed by the farmers' 
sons, they were obliged to hide in the woods until their 
missive was too old to be of any service to Ferguson. 
This was one of those contingencies on which hung the 
fate of the British commander ; and it was also one of 
those small events, pregnant with great consequences, 
which meet us everywhere in the history of this rear- 
guard of the Revolution. 

The aged loyalist who had so won upon the confi- 
dence of Ferguson was at heart a stanch patriot. Doubt- 
less he was ashamed of the devil's clothing in which he 
had arrayed himself to worm out the secrets of the Brit- 
ish oflScer. It is certain that he did penance for his 

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falsehood by a ride of more than twenty miles, on a dark 
night, through a dismal forest and over swollen streams 
to the nearest American encampment. This was at Flint 
Hill, where lay the broken remains of Sumter's brigade. 
The heroic leader himself was in hiding, badly wounded, 
and his men were now in command of Colonels Hill and 
Lacey, of South Carolina, who were waiting for some 
opportunity to strike a blow for the patriot cause. They 
numbered about four hundred men — far too weak a force 
to attempt to cope with Ferguson, and this they keenly 
regretted, when told by the old dissembler that the Brit- 
ish commander lay within a few hours' ride of their 
rifles. But, toward the close of that day — the 6th of 
October — ^they learned from their scouts of the advance 
of the over-mountain men to Gilbert Town and their 
march toward Kinety-six, in the vain hope of overtaking 
Ferguson. Instantly the two colonels resolved to set 
them right, and to tender their own men to re-enforce 
the expedition. Colonel Hill was suffering from a re- 
cent wound, and could not endure a night ride of thirty 
miles ; but at eight o'clock Colonel Lacey mounted his 
horse, and, attended by only a single guide, set out to 
find the men from the Backwater. 

The night was again very dark. They soon lost 
their way, and, suspecting treachery, Lacey was twice 
on the point of shooting his guide ; but merciful 
thoughts came to him on each occasion, and some hours 
after midnight he was rewarded by being led to the out- 
lying pickets of the over-mountain men, who were en- 

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camped only two miles beyond where they had lost the 
trail of Ferguson at Denard's Ford. Stating his errand, 
Lacey was blindfolded and led to the quarters of the 
commanding colonels. Every one of them was astir, 
though it wanted yet some hours to daybreak ; but they 
received his advances with distrust, taking him at first 
for a Tory spy. In this region a man could not trust 
his nearest neighbor, and Lacey was a stranger to every 
one in the encampment. But he was not to be repulsed. 
He told them what he knew about Ferguson, and, offer- 
ing to join his force with theirs, proposed to set out at 
once to attack him, before he could receive his expected 
re-enforcement from Cornwallis. Lacey's evident sin- 
cerity at last convinced the wary backwoodsmen, and 
they gladly accepted his proposal, agreeing to join him 
at sunset of the following day at the Cowpens, a place 
which, only a hundred days later, was to witness the dis- 
astrous defeat of Tarleton by General Morgan. The colo- 
nels then told Lacey that they had lost the trail of Fer- 
guson at the crossing of Broad Eiver, but, convinced that 
he had gone on to Ninety-six, they had spent the greater 
part of the night in selecting seven hundred of their 
best-mounted men, with whom they meant to pursue 
and bring him to battle before he could effect a junction 
with Colonel Cruger. His arrival had saved them from 
that fatal mistake ; and thus it was that the night-ride 
of the venerable wearer of devil's clothing had important 

The Cowpens was twenty-one miles from the camp of 

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the patriot colonels^ and about the same distance from 
Sumter's men at Flint Hill. To reach the latter place 
Lacey had a rough ride of nearly thirty miles, over a 
wretched road and through a hilly country ; but he was 
at the rendezvous with his troops a little after sunset on 
the 6th of October, thus riding fifty miles, and muster- 
ing and marching his men, in the short space of fifteen 
hours. At the Cowpens Lacey was soon joined by Se- 
vier and the other colonels, with their seven hundred 
chosen mounted men. The remainder of the force, num- 
bering six hundred and ninety, had been left behind to 
follow on the trail of the advance as rapidly as they 
were able ; but they were not counted on for eflfective 
service, it being thought that the utmost speed would be 
required to reach Ferguson before he should receive re- 

With Colonels Hill and Lacey was Colonel Williams, 
the efficient officer who had fought so gallantly at Mus- 
grove's Mill. Their combined forces numbered about 
four hundred and fifty; but when the best men, best 
rifles, and best horses, were winnowed from among the 
rest, there were found only two hundred and ten who 
were thought capable of marching fifty miles with- 
out food, and then fighting a fresh and well-disciplined 
enemy of superior numbers. When the selection was 
completed, the flying squadron counted precisely nine 
hundred and ten men — truly a small force to have com- 
mitted to it the task of turning an important page in 
human history. 

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The Cowpens received its name from being the resi- 
dence of a wealthy Tory, who employed a large number 
of pens in the stalling of his cattle. Some of his ani- 
mals were now made contraband of war by the patriots, 
and it is recorded by one of the expedition that they 
reaped fifty acres of his com in about ten minutes. The 
night was again very dark, and heavy clouds portended an 
early storm, but soon hundreds of camp-fires cast a lurid 
glow over all the surrounding country. By these fires 
the half-famished men were having a feast that they had 
not known since leaving Watauga. They had marched 
for ten days through a thinly settled country, destitute 
of provisions, and their fare had been of the most meager 
description. Parched corn-meal, or the green ear roast- 
ed, had been their principal ration, and one of them 
says, ^'I thought green pumpkins, sliced and fried, 
about the sweetest eating I ever had in my life.*' Even 
of such food their supply had been scanty, but now they 
had broiled beef in plenty — eaten, however, without salt, 
and in haste, for the order to march would be issued as 
soon as the officers should have finished the winnowing 
of the newly arrived forces. The order came before the 
more tardy among them had fully broiled their steaks ; 
but the larger number managed to provide a few ears of 
roasted com for their knapsacks. 

And there was need of haste. A scout, who joined 
the force on its arrival at the Cowpens, reported that he 
had seen Ferguson that very moming, marching east^ 
ward, and ten miles distant from his late encampment. 

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His army did not exceed fifteen hundred men, but it was 
moving toward Cornwallis, and was not, at that time, 
more than thirty miles from Charlotte. Another scout 
soon came in, bringing tidings that Major Gibbs, a noted 
loyalist, was only four miles away, with from four to six 
hundred Tories, whom he intended to lead to Ferguson 
on the following day ; and other smaller bodies of loyal- 
ists were known to be in the neighborhood. There was 
need, therefore, of haste, if the patriots would oyertake 
Ferguson before he was joined by these Tories, and had 
received re-enforcements from headquarters, from which 
he was now distant only a forced march of less than twen- 
ty-four hours. By some, it was proposed that the little 
army should fall on and annihilate Gibbs and the other 
Tories ; but this was opposed by Sevier and Shelby. 
They had, they again said, come out to fight Fergu- 
son. Let the meaner game go. If he were crushed, the 
head would be gone, and the body would inevitably fall 
to pieces. 

The information brought by the scouts was correct. 
Ferguson had broken camp at four o'clock on the morn- 
ing of that day, and marched sixteen miles to King's 
Mountain. He was pretty accurately informed of the 
movements of the over-mountain men, as may be seen 
from the following dispatch, which, on setting out, he 
sent to Comwallis : 

" My Lord : A doubt does not remain with regard 
to. the intelligence I sent your lordship. They are since 

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joined by Clarke and Sumter — of course, are become an 
object of some consequence. Happily, their leaders are 
obliged to feed their followers with such hopes, and so 
to flatter them with accounts of our weakness and fear, 
that, if necessary, I should hope for success against them 
myself ; but, numbers compared, that must be but doubt- 

"I am on my march toward you by a road leading 
from Cherokee Ford, north of King's Mountain. Three 
or four hundred good soldiers, part dragoons, would fin- 
ish the business. Something must he done soon. This 
is their last push in this quarter. '* 

Ferguson was mistaken as to Clarke and Sumter. 
Thirty of Clarke's men, and all that remained of Sum- 
ter's, were with the patriots ; but the two leaders them- 
selyes were absent from their commands, Sumter at that 
time wounded and in concealment, and Clarke, his wife, 
and some of his scattered troops, enjoying the hospitality 
of the ^^ Bonnie Kate," at Sevier's log palace on the Noli- 
chucky. He also greatly overestimated the patriot force. 
Allaire states that they were twenty-five hundred strong 
when they j^ttacked at King's Mountain, and this was 
probably Ferguson's present estimate. But, however 
much he exaggerated his enemy's strength, Ferguson had 
no thought of further retreat. He had now taken up a 
strong position, from which, he said, he could not be 
driven by all the rebels out of — sheol, and there he in- 
tended to hold his ground. This is evident from the 

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following extract from a biographical sketch of him, 
written by his distinguished relative, Dr. Adam Fergu- 
son : " He dispatched a messenger to Lord Comwallis, 
to inform his lordship of what had passed — of the ene- 
mies he had to deal with — of the route he had taken 
to avoid them ; earnestly expressing his wish that he 
might be enabled to cover a country in which there were 
so many well-affected inhabitants ; adding that for this 
purpose he should halt at King's Mountain, hoping that 
he might be there supported by a detachment from his 
lordship, and saved the necessity of any further re- 
treat.'^ This letter was intercepted by the patriots, and 
a duplicate that was sent on the following day, arrived 
too late to prevent the disaster which overtook Ferguson. 
The nine hundred and ten mounted men set out on 
their march from the Cowpens about nine o'clock that 
evening, and they were followed by about fifty foot-sol- 
diers, whose ardor to meet the enemy could not be re- 
pressed by either mud, or storm, or darkness. For the 
night was intensely dark, and a drizzling rain was fall- 
ing, miring the roads, and making them all but impass- 
able for foot-passengers. Before many hours the drizzle 
became a pouring rain, and to shield their rifles from 
the wet the men were obliged to wrap their blankets and 
hunting-shirts about the locks, thus exposing their bod- 
ies to the full fury of the storm. The rain lasted all 
the night, but they kept on, wet to the skin, and often 
losing their way in the darkness, but never halting a 
moment till, with the first streak of day, they came to 

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the range of low hills which overlook the Cherokee 
Ford of Broad Eiver. Here they drew up on the sum- ' 
mit, while Enoch Gilmer, their most trusted scout, went 
forward to reconnoitre the ford, it being feared that 
the enemy might have waylaid the crossing. 

Of thi3 scout I may as well say a few words, for he 
was of great service to the expedition. The over-mount- 
ain men were in a strange country, where nearly every 
man they met* was a Tory, and not merely a Tory, but 
a creature of low, half-devilish instincts, from whom it 
was next to impossible to extract truthful and reliable in- 
formation. Without any purpose except pure mischief 
they took delight in misleading the expedition, and 
would have counted it a huge joke had it miscarried 
through their false tidings. It was owing to the sol- 
emn assertions of two of these men, that they had seen 
Ferguson on the road to Ninety-six, that the patriot colo- 
nels were led to follow on that route after they had 
lost the trail of the enemy at Broad Eiver. As I have 
said, a hundred years have not improved these people. 
They still inhabit that region, live in the same mud- 
chinked hovels, wear the same coarse "butternuts," 
and have the same personal characteristics — those of the 
porcine animal, whose flesh is their favorite article of 
diet. Giving freedom to such men was literally casting 
"pearls before swine," but to this end were Sevier and 
his comrades now marching and fighting. 

The scout Gilmer was unacquainted with the region, 
but was peculiarly fitted for gathering information in 

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any locality. He belonged to a class of which some con- 
spicuous examples were developed by our recent civil 
war — bom actors, who could assume any character at 
pleasure, laugh and weep in the same breath, be grave 
or gay, wise or " otherwise," a sane man or a lunatic, 
and act each part so naturally as to deceive the most 
astute reader of human nature. To these uncommon 
traits Oilmer added absolute fearlessness, perfect self- 
possession, keen observation, and a shrewdness that could 
neither be misled nor baffled. While the troops were de- 
tained at the Cowpens, he had pushed on a few miles to 
the house of a wealthy Tory, and in an incredibly short 
time had so won on his confidence as to draw from him 
v^\ that he knew of the enemy's intentions. Comwal- 
lis, the Tory said, was calling in his outposts and con- 
centrating his forces, to give Gates another crushing de- 
feat, when North Carolina would be fully at his feet, and 
an unobstructed road opened before him through Virginia, 
which State he would enter with a larger army than 
had yet been seen on American soil. All which might 
have come to pass but for the handful of cold and 
hungry men, in dripping blankets and hunting-shirts, 
wearied with forty-two miles of hard riding, who, with- 
in a few hours, filed swiftly past the old Tory's door- 
way. They looked to him like a battalion of drowned 
rats, but their powder was dry, and so were the locks of 
their unerring Deckard rifles, and before the sun should 
again go down he should hear that the brilliant dream of 
Comwallis had been dispelled in a smoke of their raising. 

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Gilmer now rode fearlessly forward to the Cherokee 
Ford, and soon the men in waiting on the hills heard him 
singing at the top of his voice, " Barney Linn," a song of 
the period. At this signal that the road was clear, they 
again moved forward. The river was swollen with the 
still falling rain, hut the troops could he no wetter than 
they were, and, holding their rifles aloft, they plunged 
holdly into the deep and rapid stream — those best mount- 
ed taking the upper side, as most able to withstand the 
current. When all were safely over, they pressed on 
again. They were satisfied that Ferguson was not far 
in advance, and on the road they were pursuing, but 
of how far away he was, or how posted, they were igno- 
rant. To make these discoveries, Gilmer was again sent 
forward. He dashed off at a rapid gallop, the squad 
following at a slower pace, till at a short distance they 
came to the camping-ground which Ferguson had left 
only twenty-four hours before. Here the officers called 
a halt of a few minutes to allow the men to snatch a 
hasty and meager breakfast from the store in their knap- 
sacks, and some standing corn they found by the road- 
side. The men feasted upon the raw ears, and served 
out the stalks to their horses. This done, they took to 
the road again, satisfied from the fresh tracks that they 
were not far in the rear of Ferguson. 

They had marched twenty-one miles in a pouring 
rain, and now the storm increased, and the rain came 
down even faster. The windows of heaven seemed to 
be open and pouring out a deluge of water. It struck 

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upon their drenched bodies like pellets of hail, chilling 
them through to the very marrow of their bones. Some . 
of the horses gave out, and some of the men sank ex- 
hausted upon their saddles. In these circumstances a 
few of the colonels held a hurried consultation, and rid- 
ing forward to Shelby, who led the advance, told him 
that they had decided to halt for a while to give the 
men a little rest and refreshment. "I will not stop 
until night," he answered, curtly, " if I follow Ferguson 
into Cornwallis's lines ! " Without reply they rode back 
to their commands, and no more was said about rest or 

At the distance of eleven miles from the ford they 
came upon a semi-loyalist, from whom they learned that 
Ferguson was encamped only eight miles beyond ; and 
here they fortunately captured a couple of Tories. 
Being promised their liberty, these men gave the patriots 
some account of the situation of the enemy, and guided 
them on the way to his encampment. So they pressed 
on again, with renewed courage. About noon the rain 
ceased, the clouds cleared away, and the sun came out 
bright and glorious, sending warmth into their chilled 
limbs, stiffened as they were from nearly fifty miles of 
constant riding. A smile seemed now to overspread the 
;«7hole of Nature, and in this both oDBcers and men saw 
an omen of good fortune to the expedition ; so again 
they took courage, and pressed still more eagerly for- 

At the end of another five miles, some of Sevier's 

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men entered a Tory dwelling. From the men of the 
family they could extract nothing more than that Fer- 
guson was not far away ; hut, as they left the house, a 
woman followed them who asked, " How many are there 
of you ? " " Enough to whip Ferguson, if we can find 
him ! " they answered. " He is on that mountain," she 
replied, pointing to a spur of the King's Mountain range, 
about three miles away. 

Biding on some distance farther, Colonel Campbell, 
and some other officers who were in the advance, de- 
scried the horse of Gilmer tied at the gateway of a house 
about half a mile up the road. Campbell had no special 
acquaintance with the scout, but he had been told of 
his vaunted coolness and bravery, and he determined 
upon a practical joke that should test his possession of 
those qualities. Making a lasso of a rope, he put spurs 
to his horse, and with several others rode at full gallop 
for the dwelling. Entering it, they found Gilmer seated 
at dinner with the family, two of whom were women, 
and one young and good-looking. " You d — d rascal," 
shouted the devout Presbyterian, " we have got you ! " 
" A true king's man," replied Gilmer, with even stronger 
emphasis. Dragging the scout from the table, the pious 
colonel swore that he would hang him from the cross- 
bar of the gate before the doorway ; at which the wom- 
en screamed and burst into tears. Seeing this. Major 
Chronicle, who was Gilmer's friend, besought the colo- 
nel not to hang him there, lest his ghost should dis- 
turb the family. To this the colonel assented, declar- 

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ing, however, that the Tory should swing from the first 
oyerhanging limb. Then the scout was dragged away, 
and, when well out of sight of the house, was duly re- 
leased, and asked to tell his story. In such rude sports 
these men could engage on the very eve of a desperate 

The family were of decided Tory principles. The 
scout had ingratiated himself with them by professing 
to be a " true king^s man," who desired to find Fergu- 
son in order to enlist with him. This so overjoyed 
the women that they allowed the scout to express his 
sympathy with their principles by giving each a hearty 
smack; and this pressure of the lips so opened the 
heart and mouth of the younger woman, that she told 
Gilmer she had been to Ferguson's camp, with some 
poultry, that very morning ; and that it was only three 
miles away, on a ridge between two streams, where a 
party of hunters had encamped during the previous 
autumn. Among these hunters had been Major Chroni- 
cle and Captain Mattocks, two of the officers on the ex- 
pedition, so that the patriots had now exact knowledge 
of Ferguson's position. 

Scarcely slackening the pace of the squadron, the 
commanding colonels now gathered about Chronicle, 
and, as they rode forward, listened to his description 
of the position of Ferguson. At once and unanimously 
they decided to surround his encampment, and attempt 
the capture or destruction of his entire army. A plan 
of battle was speedily agreed upon. Still sitting upon 

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their horses, -they provided for every detail of the com- 
ing engagement. The little army should be divided 
into four columns, two of which, under Sevier and Shel- 
by, should march forward in the road ; the two others, 
under Campbell and Cleveland, on each side of it, and 
all in full view of one another. In this order they 
should move onward as noiselessly as possible to the foot 
of the mountain, when Sevier and Campbell should de- 
ploy to the right, Cleveland and Shelby to the left, and 
thus completely encircle Ferguson. Then dismounting, 
and tethering their horses in the timber, they should 
raise the Tennessee yell, and simultaneously, all around 
the circle, begin the attack. It is not known with whom 
this plan of battle originated ; but, from whomever it 
came, it was a flash of genius. No other could have 
succeeded. Approached according to the rules of mod- 
em warfare, the position of the British was impregnable. 
This was Ferguson's own opinion, and it was confirmed 
by General Bernard, an aide-de-camp of Napoleon, who, 
after examining the ground, said : " The shape of the 
hill itself would be an eternal monument of the military 
genius and skill of Colonel Ferguson. ... No other plan 
of assault but that pursued by the mountain-men could 
have succeeded against him." 

Hitherto the men had marched without any regard 
to military order, singly or in small squads, as suited 
their convenience ; but now a halt was called, and every 
man was ordered to take his appropriate position under 
his proper commander. Strict silence was also enjoined. 

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and then, as mute as the jaded beasts they rode, the 
battalion moyed again rapidly forward. At a little dis- 
tance, Seyier^s advance captured two or three Tories, 
who confirmed the scout's report of the position of Fer- 
guson, and pointed out the locality of his pickets. These 
were come upon noiselessly by Shelby, and captured 
without firing a gun ; and a short distance farther on 
a youth was made prisoner, who was riding express 
to Oomwallis. On him were found dispatches from 
Ferguson, which were read to the men — all but the 
statement of his numbers, which, being larger than their 
own, was kept secret by the ofl5cers. Then, when with- 
in about a third of a mile of the enemy's position, 
they halted amid the thick woods and fastened their 
horses to the branches of trees. The nine hundred and 
ten mounted men were all there, and, incredible as it 
may seem, the fifty riflemen who had come on afoot 
were also present. They had marched nearly fifty miles 
in ^ghteen hours, through mud, and rain, and darkness. 
The men were now ordered to strap their blankets and 
oyercoats to their saddles. This done, the final word was 
giyen, " Fresh prime your guns, and every man go into 
battle firmly resolved to fight till he dies ! " Then stern 
and silently they encircled the hill ; and then the long 
roll of the British drum echoed amid the trees, and a 
shower of bullets, falling among Shelby's men, pro- 
claimed that the battle had begun. 

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king's MouirrAi:^. 

The spot where the battle was fought is not entitled 
to the name of mountain. It is a narrow ridge of 
ground^ about a third of a mile long, and at its great- 
est breadth not more than three hundred and fifty feet 
wide — ^a mere spur of a loftier eminence known as King's 
Mountain. Standing anywhere upon its summit^ a man 
is within short range of a rifleman posted on either 
side of the hill. It rises only sixty feet from the sur- 
rounding country, but its sides slope steeply, and at the 
time of the battle were covered with a heavy growth 
of timber, behind which the assailants could shield their 
approach ; but at the summit they would be met by a 
high escarpment of rocks, broken, jagged, and heaped 
confusedly together, forming in many places a breast- 
work as difficult to scale as the stone walls of a fortress. 
Behind these rocks Ferguson was posted, his baggage- 
wagons drawn together to protect the most exposed point 
of his position, which was at the wider extremity of the 
elevation. With him was a force of something more 
than eleven hundred men, about one hundred and fifty 
of whom were British regulars, armed with musket and 

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bayonet, and the remainder Tory militia, provided with 
rifles, and many of them with long butcher-knives, made 
to fit firmly into the muzzles of their pieces. In a 
charge, these knives would be as effective as the reg- 
ular bayonet. The Tories Ferguson had carefully drilled 
during several months, and he relied upon them with 
nearly as much confidence as on his famous regulars. 
Defended by such soldiers, he regarded his position as 

The over-mountain men had marched for thirty-six 
hours with scarcely any rest or food ; but, now pausing 
only long enough to strap their blankets to their sad- 
dles, and tether their horses among the trees, they filed 
rapidly around the ridge, to attack an enemy thus 
strongly posted, refreshed by rest and sleep, and, as their 
leaders knew from the captured dispatches, considerably 
their superior in numbers. Sevier led the way with the 
right wing, Cleveland and Williams followed with the 
left, and Campbell and Shelby with the center brought 
up the rear, and in this order the combined forces moved 
steadily to their assigned places. These taken, they 
would completely encircle the enemy's position, Shelby 
being opposite to Campbell, Sevier to Williams and Lacy, 
and the forces of Cleveland joining those of Sevier at the 
wider extremity of the ridge, which was barricaded by 
the baggage-wagons. As Shelby and Campbell had a 
shorter distance to march than the others, they would 
be the first to reach their places ; but orders were given 
them to defer the attack until Sevier and Cleveland had 

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got into position, when the latter should raise the Ten- 
nessee yell, and all should rush simultaneously upon the 
enemy. But the early firing of the British frustrated 
this arrangement. 

As Shelby approached the hill, he discovered a gap 
leading directly to the enemy's position on the summit. 
Entering this, he was met by a volley from the British, 
and his men began to fall around him. They pleaded for 
permission to return the fire; but he answered : *^!N"o! 
Press on to your places, and your fire will not be wasted.'* 
They pressed rapidly on, and thus the battle began ten 
minutes before Sevier and Cleveland had reached their 
appointed positions. 

Meanwhile, hearing the firing, Campbell ordered his 
men to scale the hill, and attack on the side opposite 
to Shelby. The doughty Presbyterian was in his shirt- 
sleeves, stripped for the fight ; and, waving above his 
head an old claymore which had come down to him from 
his Scottish ancestors, he shouted to his men : " Here 
they are, my brave boys ; shout like h — ^11, and fight 
like devils ! " The ground at this point is craggy, 
abrupt, and difficult of ascent ; but, creeping slowly up 
the acclivity, and dodging from tree to tree, it was not 
many minutes before Campbell's men were near the sum- 
mit. There they paused, and poured in a volley, upon 
the solid mass of British, which mowed them down 
as grain is mown down by the sickle. At the same 
moment Shelby, having reached his position, opened a 
fire on the British rear, and soon the signal-yell broke 

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from the farther end of the hill, and the deadly work be- 
gan ail around the mountain. The shout was taken up 
by the whole attacking force, till the woods echoed with 
the unearthly sound — more terrible even than the sharp 
crack of the backwoods rifles. Hearing it, De Peyster 
said to Ferguson, **This is ominous — these are those 
yelling devils !" He had heard that shout at Musgrove's 
Mill, and knew that it meant desperate fighting. 

But Ferguson was not to be intimidated by yells or 
bullets. Instantly he ordered his regulars to charge 
down upon Campbell with the bayonet, and a like force 
of Tories to drive Shelby from the other side with their 
butcher-knives. Campbell's men fell back slowly till 
some of them were thrust through and through, when 
the rest retreated more rapidly to the very foot of the 
hill and even beyond it. But Campbell had them well 
in hand. When it seemed to him that they had gone 
far enough, he called to them to halt and reload. This 
they did in a moment, and up the hill they went 
again, driving the British before them, and pouring 
upon them a rapid fire that crimsoned the hill-side. 
On the retreat, Lieutenant Edmonston, who had fought 
so bravely at Long Island Flats, was thrust through the 
arm, but, sheltering himself only long enough to have the 
limb bandaged, he joined his men in the return charge, 
saying, *^Boys, let us at it again V^ 

In a similar manner Shelby was driven down the 
opposite slope by the butcher-knife bayonets of the 
Tories. Firing as they went, his men fell back slowly 

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to the foot of the declivity. However, falling back with 
them, as with Campbell, did not mean retreat. Every 
man knew it to be the prearranged tactics of the leaders, 
and when Shelby shouted, "Now, boys, reload, and let's 
advance upon them and give them another fire ! " they 
quickly turned, formed in columns, and went up the 
hill again, their leader at their head. All through the 
fight, " Shelby, a man of the hardiest make, stiff as iron, 
among the dauntless singled out for dauntlessness, went 
right onward and upward, like a man who had but one 
thing to do, and but one thought — to do ifc." * 

Sevier and Cleveland had already joined in the at- 
tack, and now, says Shelby, " the mountain was covered 
with flame and smoke, and seemed to thunder." As 
Cleveland led his men to the attack he could not resist 
making them a speech after his backwoods fashion. 
In broken sentences he shouted as they climbed the 
hill in the face of a terrible fire : " My brave fellows, 
we have beaten the Tories, and we can beat them again. 
They are all cowards. If they had the spirit of men, 
they would join us in supporting the independence of 
the country. When you are engaged, do not wait for 
the word of command. I will show you by my exam- 
ple how to fight. I can undertake no more. Every 
man must act on his own judgment. Fire as fast as 
you can, and stand your ground as long as you can. 
When you can do no better, get behind trees, or retreat ; 

♦ Bancroft 

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but I beg you not to run quite off." Then, pointing 
to the crest of the hill down which a deadly fire was 
plunging, he cried, "Yonder is your enemy, and the 
enemy of mankind ! " 

Then they went up the hill, and from behind trees, 
and rocks, and fallen logs, and every natural protection, 
poured their well-directed fire, pausing only to reload, 
which done, they would dash suddenly for some higher- 
up shelter, their leader every now and then calling out, 
"A little nearer, my brave men, a little nearer ! " Thus 
they crept up the slope, firing as they went, and every 
bullet doing its fatal work, till they stood face to face 
with the Tories on the summit. Then ensued a fearful 
hand-to-hand encounter, in which, singling out their 
opponents, men grappled with one another in deadly 
struggle, amid shouts and yells and curses that echoed 
far away amid the peaceful forest. Such is war, 
stripped of its sham glory, and seen in its utter na- 
kedness — a carnival of wild beasts, a pastime for devils. 
If great principles were not at stake, if through such 
fiery ordeals the race of man did not rise to higher levels 
of progress and freedom, what human being would have 
the heart to turn a single page in this world's bloody 
history ? 

Meanwhile Sevier had led his men up to the eastern 
crest, right against the center and most solid masses of 
the enemy. He made them no harangue — none was 
needed, for they were accustomed to follow where he led, 
without thought or question. Every man among them 

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had been with him before in as deadly peril. Straight up 
the hill they went, right into the enemy's fire, pausing 
only at the very summit. Here the barricade of rocks 
gave them the same protection it gave the enemy, and 
even greater, for the British were firing down-hill, and 
of necessity overshot the mark, wounding only the trees 
along the hill-side. In Sevier's little army every man 
was a sharp-shooter, and when he halted at the summit, 
and said, " Now, boys, single out your men, take sure 
aim, and — ^fire 1 " the havoc that followed was terrible. 
The British went down like bent grain before a torrent 
of hail — they were piled in heaps, like sea-weed thrown 
up by an ocean-storm. The hill streamed red with the 

The little mountain was now everywhere in eruption, 
belching forth smoke and lightning and thunder. One 
long, sulphureous blaze encircled and flashed everywhere 
along it from base to summit. Two thousand stal- 
wart men were wrestling there in a life-and-death strug- 
gle, and the shouts of the combatants, the cries of the 
wounded, the moans of the dying, mingling with the 
sharp report of the rifle, and the startling Indian yell 
that every now and then broke forth along the American 
lines, made up a din deafening and appalling. But 
above it all rose the shrill whistle of the British com- 
mander, by which he rallied and directed his men in 
the conflict. In his wounded left hand he carried a 
slim silver tube, and its well-understood signals conveyed 
his orders to all parts of the mountain. Though him- 

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self in the thickest of the fight abreast of Sevier, he 
was thus in a manner everywhere present. 

Thus, for more than half an hour the hattle raged, 
the patriots now repulsed and now again driving the 
enemy. Time and again the British bayonets drive them 
down the hill, and time and again they reform and force 
the enemy back with terrible slaughter. As those on one 
side of the hill give way, those on the other advance, 
and thus the British are between two fires continually. 
This happens to all but Sevier^s men, who from behind 
their barricade of rocks pour in a fire so rapid that 
they can not be approached by the bayonet. Huddled 
closely together, Ferguson's soldiers are a broad target 
for the unerring backwoods rifle. Their ranks are being 
thinned rapidly, and, seeing this, the British leader mus- 
ters his bayonets for a supreme effort. Twice has he 
driven Campbell down the hill, and twice has Campbell 
returned to the onset ; and now again with closed ranks 
De Peyster,his second in command, forces the heroic 
Presbyterians down the declivity, while along the Britich 
lines goes up the shout, ^^Tarleton and his legion are 
coming ! " The weary patriots hear the shout, and their 
fire slackens. The famous legion is a terror throughout 
the Carolinas. To be taken by it in rear, with such an 
enemy in front, might well appall the bravest. The 
quick ear of Sevier catches the sound, and his keen 
eye discerns the danger. His brother Eobert has been 
struck down by his side, three of his riflemen are 
stretched dead at his feet, and his best men are wavering. 

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It is indeed the crisis of the hattle, for, looking off to 
the south, he sees that Camphell's retreat has hecome a 
rout — some of his men are transfixed, some have been 
pushed headlong over the cliffs, and all are fleeing in 
disorder. They seem irreparably broken. That British 
shout is in their ears, and the panic of Camden is about 
to be repeated. But Sevier is never so cool as in the mo- 
ment of greatest danger. He speaks a few words to his 
men, and then, amid that storm of bullets, leaps upon 
his horse and rushes with his entire left wing to the 
rescue of Campbell. 

The pious Presbyterian is dismounted, and posted 
half-way between his own men and the pursuing British. 
His shirt is unbuttoned, a red bandanna is about his 
head, his face is begrimed with smoke and powder, and, 
flourishing his old claymore about him, he is calling 
upon his men to halt, with oaths strong enough to rend 
the mountain from base to summit. But his men do 
not halt. That British shout has got into their legs, 
and it drives them farther and farther away from the 
enemy. But now Sevier and his riflemen are among 
them. Of that strange magnetic power, by which one 
can infuse his spirit into a thousand, I suppose no man 
ever possessed a larger share than this intrepid soldier 
of the backwoods. Those who saw him in battle have 
said, " His eyes were flames of fire, and his words 
electric bolts, crashing down the ranks of the enemy." 
He now says but little, but what he does say arrests 
that demoralized crowd till they turn about, and, with 

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the brave Campbell, and his own Watauga boys, rush 
again fiercely up the mountain. A wounded Tory, who 
was lying half-way down the slope, has described their 
appearance as they nt)W returned to the onset. " They 
were," he says, '*the most powerful-looking men lever 
beheld — tall, raw-boned, and sinewy, such men, as a body, 
as were never before seen in the Carolinas. They ap- 
peared like so many devils from the infernal regions, 
so full of excitement were they as they rushed like en- 
raged lions up the mountain." 

Sevier watches them as they go up the slope, and 
then, still on horseback, and within short musket-range 
of the enemy, he moves along among the other weary 
patriots, and, everywhere he moves, the men gather 
strength, and rush with renewed courage upon the 
enemy. " Let them come on, my men," he says — '* Gibbs 
and Moore and their Tories, and Tarleton and his dra- 
goons to boot ! One more charge will end Ferguson, 
and then we will finish Tarleton and the Tories ! " It 
was this ride of Sevier that won the battle. 

But Sevier was back in his place in time to join in 
the last desperate grapple with the enemy. It lasted 
twenty minutes, during which the two forces were not 
a hundred feet apart, and the slaughter was terrific. 
As Campbell's men and the Watauga boys mounted 
the crest, they were joined by Shelby, and together they 
scaled the rocks and moved down upon the enemy. 
Slowly the British regulars fell back toward the east- 
em end of the hill, where Sevier and Cleveland were 

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mowing down their Tory comrades. Ferguson orders a 
charge, to end this cross-firing, and De Peyster mores 
forward with a strong force of leveled bayonets; but, 
when he reaches the lines of Sevier, only twelve of his 
men are fit for duty — the rest had been shot down 
by the Watauga riflemen. Slowly but steadily Shelby 
and Campbell push the British back along the crest of 
the mountain, which now is slippery with blood, and 
strewed with the dead and the dying. Soon British 
and Tories are huddled together at the farther end of 
the hill, where the hail is falling from the rifles of Se- 
vier and Cleveland. The Tories raise a white flag, but 
Ferguson orders it down. Soon another goes up, which 
he levels with his sword ; and then De Peyster tells him 
that further resistance is a waste of life, and urges a 
surrender. This the British leader refuses ; but soon, 
seeing that all is lost, he spurs his horse directly upon 
Sevier^s lines, with the desperate resolve to break through 
and escape down the mountain. One of Sevier's men, 
named Oilliland, recognizes him by the linen hunting- 
shirt which he wears over his uniform. Gilliland is lean- 
ing against a tree, severely wounded and well-nigh ex- 
hausted, but he* levels his rifle at the British leader. 
It flashes in the pan, and he calls to his comrade, Bob- 
ert Young, *^ There is Ferguson — shoot him ! " Young 
fires, and the British officer falls from his horse, mortally 
wounded. No less than five other rifles crack at almost 
the same instant, and each one of as many Watauga 
riflemen claimed to have killed Ferguson. No doubt 

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they aU told the truth, for that number of mortal 
wounds were found upon the body of the British leader. 
A scene of. wild confusion follows. Seeing his leader 
fallen, and unable to form six of his men together, De 
Peyster orders a white flag raiseii. Its bearer is at once 
shot down by the infuriated patriots, some of whom 
do riot understand this signal of surrender. Another 
flag is then raised on the end of a rifle, and Evan 
Shelby rides forward and receives the sword of the 
British commander, where he stands, near the baggage- 
wagons. There, in a few moments, Sevier and Shelby 
come together for the first time since the beginning 
of the battle. Sevier, as he scans the face of his 
younger comrade, utters an exclamation of surprise, 
saying, " They have singed off your hair ! " A British 
musket had been discharged so near as to bum Shelby's 
beard. Then they order the enemy to throw down their 
arms, and the patriots to cease firing. The last order is 
obeyed by all but one solitary rifle. Pingl ping! it 
goes every few seconds, from the farther end of the hill, 
and its balls fall with deadly effect among the solid 
mass of British and Tories. The discharges are from 
a young lad just at the edge of the crest, and an of- 
ficer is sent to order him to stop firing. *^I won't!'* 
ho answers ; " the rascals have shot my father, and I 
shall keep on shooting till I have killed every one of 
them ! " This he said to two or three other messengers, 
and he did not desist till Sevier himself rode up to 
him. Then the boy threw away his rifle, and in a 

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transport of joy embraced his father, whom he had 
thought killed by the Tories. He had been misled by 
the report of the fall of his uncle Robert. 

On that blood-stained hill there lay, when night fell 
upon the carnage, two hundred and twenty-five British 
dead, and one hundred and eighty-five more or less se- 
verely wounded. Of the corps of regulars only twenty 
were left fit for duty. All the rest of Ferguson's com- 
mand, some seven hundred, were prisoners. !Not a man 
escaped. The American loss waa only twenty-eight 
killed and sixty wounded ; but among the killed were 
the brave Colonel Williams, and Major Ohronicle and 
Captain Mattocks, whose knowledge of the ground had 
contributed so largely to the success of the battle. Rob- 
ert Sevier died on the march homeward. The disparity 
of the British and American loss is partly accounted 
for by the fact that down-hiU firing overshoots the mark. 
This was understood by Putnam and Stark, who, at 
Bunker Hill, told their men to ^'aim at their waist- 
bands. '^ The great disproportion of British killed to 
their wounded shows the wonderful accuracy of the 
backwoods rifle. Thirty-seven killed is the usual ratio 
to one hundred and eighty-five more or less injured, 
instead of which the British death-roll on this bloody 
field ran up to an excess of forty above the wounded* . 

It was a remarkable battle. If we take no account 
of the small numbers engaged, and consider only the 
valor displayed, and the results that followed, it must be 
classed as one of the most notable conflicts in American 

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history. The British fought as well as Britons ever 
fought — ^which is saying that they showed all the bravery 
of which man is supposed to be capable. Their leader, 
too^ displayed not only valor and skilly but an indomitable 
will and exalted heroism. All through the fight he was 
everywhere, animating his men, and, so long as he lived, 
they might be shot down, but they could not be con- 
quered. And he fell at last because he preferred death 
to surrender. But he fought against Sevier and Shelby, 
men as heroic as he, and actuated by far higher motives. 
With him it was love of glory, and loyalty to his 
king; with them love of freedom, and fidelity to the 
rights of man : and so, in the long ages that are com- 
ing, when kings and kingcraft shall have perished from 
the earth, Ferguson will bo accounted a brave soldier, 
but Sevier and Shelby will be ranked among the heroes 
of the race — and so will the unnamed nine hundred 
who, on that bloody day, faint with hunger, and weary 
with hard riding, marched so steadily upon those British 
bayonets. One of them received what was thought to 
be a mortal wound in the abdomen, but his life was 
saved because he had not tasted food for forty-eight 
hours! Said Sevier when he was an old man, and 
the country on the eve of a second war with Great 
Britain : " I was then ready to hazard everything dear 
to man to secure our independence. I am now as will- 
ing to risk all to retain it." It was this spirit that 
conquered at King's Mountain. . 

A terrible night followed the terrible day of the 

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battle. The cold was intense^ and a strong wind swept 
across the mountain. The wounded lay around where 
they had fallen^ upon the bare ground^ among the un- 
buried dead^ with no shelter but the gray sky aboye 
them. There were no splints for their shattered limbs, 
no bandages for their flowing wounds, and only one 
surgeon among the entire two hundred and fifty. Said 
one who witnessed it, '^ The scene was heart-rending in 
the extreme — ^the groans of the dying, and the constant 
cry of the wounded for * water ! water ! ' '* The seyen 
hundred prisoners were huddled together in a narrow 
space, guarded by a handful of patriots, exhausted by 
long fasting, and far more weary than their captives. 
Near by were stacked fifteen hundred captured mus- 
kets, which a desperate rush would enable them to re- 
gain, and momently the patriot leaders expected to hear 
the distant tread of the seyen hundred Tories under 
Moore and Gibbs, and the inyincible legion of Tarleton. 
Oyerpowered by hunger and fatigue, some of the men 
slept, but no sleep came to the eyes of the leaders. 
They knew that even a more desperate battle might be 
before them ; and so would it have been had not Fer- 
guson's dispatches been delayed and intercepted, and had 
not, too, the names of Sevier and Shelby struck a whole- 
some terror into the hearts of the surrounding Tories. 
But the dismal night wore away at last, and the sun 
arose upon the bloody field of King's Mountain. Never 
before on this earth did its rising meet a more grateful 
welcome. As its first beams chased away the shadows 

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of the night, they sent down into the hearts of the weary- 
patriots new strength and courage. It is probable that 
only one man among them had even a dim foresight of 
the great results which were to follow the day's conflict, 
and now as he moved about among the tired men there 
was in his eye the steady gleam of assured triumph. 
He told them the tide had turned, the spell of British 
invincibility had been broken. Henceforth there might 
be battles, but every battle would be a victory. 

So the men arose and made ready for the weary march 
homeward. The captured arms were loaded upon the 
shoulders of the prisoners, hasty litters were prepared 
for the badly wounded, and at ten o'clock in the morn- 
ing they set out on their march, leaving Campbell and 
a small squad, behind to bury the dead upon the mount- 
ain. Encumbered as they were with wounded, and them- 
selves scarcely able to drag one foot after another, it 
was nearly night before they reached a deserted planta- 
tion only twelve miles from the field of battle. Here 
they found an abundance of dry rails for their camp- 
fires, and a patch of sweet-potatoes large enough to give 
them all the much-needed rations. While regaling 
themselves upon this simple fare, they were joined by 
the force they had left behind on their hurried march 
to the battle. They had with them a few cattle, and 
these were added to the frugal repast of their haK- 
famished comrade^. 

Thereafter, for several days, the progress of the troops 
was painfully slow. At the end of a week they had 

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gone no farther west than BickerstaS's^ a place about 
nine miles northeast of the present town of Butherford, 
and only forty miles from the field of battle. They 
numbered now, including prisoners and wounded, not 
far from twenty-five hundred men, and being in a sparse- 
ly settled region, which had been stripped bare by the 
recent march of Ferguson's forces, they suffered much for 
want of provisions. For two entire days they marched 
without any food whatever — not an ear of corn, nor a 
solitary sweet-potato. At Bickerstaff's they secured a 
meager supply, and here occurred a scene which exhibits 
the deplorable animosity that then existed between the 
patriot and Tory elements in this section. "The battle 
of Camden," says General Preston, "had made Cornwallis 
complete master of South Carolina. This power he was 
using with cruelty unparalleled in modem civilized con- 
quest; binding down the conquered people like male- 
factors, regarding each rebel as a condemned criminal, 
and checking every murmur, answering every suspicion, 
with the sword and the fire-brand. If a suspected Whig 
fled from his house to escape the insult, the scourge, 
or the rope, the myrmidons of Ferguson and Tarleton 
burned it down, and ravished his wife and daughters ; 
if a son refused to betray his parent, he was hanged 
like a dog ; if a wife refused to tell the hiding-place 
of her husband, she was impaled by the butcher-knifo 
of the Tory ; and to add double horror and infamy to 
the deep damnation of such deeds, Americans were 
forced to be the instruments for perpetrating them. 

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That which Tarleton was ashamed to do, he had done by 
Americausr-neighbors, kinsmen of his victims." While 
Sevier and Shelby were on the march to King's Moant- 
ain, the monster Browne had executed thirty of Clarke's 
soldiers at Angasta with circumstances of savage torture ; 
and now at Bickerstaff's the over-mountain men heard 
that Cruger at Ninetynsix had, only a day or two before, 
hanged eleven men for no other crime than being patriots. 
The tidings exasperated Campbell and Cleveland beyond 
expression. They lived among Tories, and had come 
to regard them as wild beasts, that are to be slain on 
sight, and without warning. They had now, they said, 
upward of thirty of these Tory leaders among their 
prisoners — ^men stained with every crime — and they de- 
manded that they should be instantly tried, and, if found 
guilty^ executed in retaliation for the British enormities. 

A court-martial of twelve field-officers was accord- 
ingly convened, and, says Shelby, ^'thirty-six men were 
tried, and found guilty of breaking open houses, killinfj 
the men, turning the women and children out-of-doors, 
and burning the houses.'* The court was convened late 
in the day, and it was far into the niglit when the trial 
of the whole number was concluded. The proceedings 
were conducted with order and decorum. Witnesses 
were duly examined, and the charges against each man 
were fully proved before the sentence was passed upon 
him— instant death by hanging. 

Among those arraigned to answer for their lives were 
Crawford and Chambers, the two of Sevier's men who had 

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deserted on the second day from Watauga, and warned 
Ferguson of the approach of the over-mountain men. 
Their treachery had occasioned the long and terrible 
march, the uncertain fight with superior numbers, and 
all the suffering and privation which the half -famished 
patriots had endured since leaving Gilbert Town. If 
events had followed their natural order — if what we mis- 
name " chance " had not interposed to delay the ^British 
leader — their act would have brought disaster upon the 
expedition, and consigned, i)erhaps, every one of the 
patriots to the gallows or a British prison. If crime 
were to be estimated by its consequences, theirs was of 
a deeper dye than that of Andr6, who, only twelve days 
before, had been sent to the gallows by Washington. 

The men composing the court were of iron mold, 
stem and inflexible, and yet justice with them was 
tempered with mercy. Chambers was but a stripling, 
and it soon became apparent that he had been led away 
by his older comrade, Crawford. This appearing, he was 
instantly pardoned, but the man Crawford was as prompt- 
ly sentenced to immediate execution. Then ensued an 
incident such as, so far as I know, never occurred in 
a court of justice, not even in one organized as a drum- 
head court-martial. It was related to me by Dr. Eam- 
sey, who had it in detail from George Washington Se- 
vier, a younger son of the general. 

Sevier was not a member of the court — ^he had no 
heart for such work — but he was present at the pro- 
ceedings. When sentence of death had been passed 

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upon Crawford^ he asked that the crimiDal might be 
given up to him^ he being a member of his regiment. 
Being questioned by one of the court as to what he 
would do with the man, Sevier replied, "I shaU let him 
go, for he has a wife and children." So had nearly all 
of the patriots, was the answer, and Crawford might 
have made every one of their wives a widow. Not one 
among the condemned was a greater criminal. This 
Sevier admitted, still he thought Crawford had not fully 
realized the consequences of his action. However, Provi- 
dence had overruled his wrong-doing, and given them 
the victory. He did not wish his share in it to be stained 
by the blood of a neighbor. This man belonged to him, 
for he was from over the mountain. Therefore, he asked 
his life, and he would be responsible for his good con- 
duct in future. 

So the man was given up to Sevier, and ever after-* 
ward was a true patriot and a worthy citizen. It 
was by acts like this that Sevier knit men to him by 
bands stronger than those welded of iron. It was not 
his splendid abilities, but his great loving-kindness, his 
tender regard for even the wayward and the criminal, 
that won for him, during forty-five years, such unwa- 
vering devotion as has never been bestowed on any other 
public man in this country. 

Crawford being liberated, the other condemned men 
were led out to execution. It was the 14th of October. 
The night was cold and dark. Thick clouds overhung 
the sky, presaging the storm that was to burst upon 

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them on the morrow. There was neither moon nor star, 
but hundreds of pine-torches cast a hvnd glow over all 
the surrounding forest. A great tree, which for years 
afterward was known as the Gallows-Oak, stood near 
the road-side. Beneath it a rude scaffold had been 
erected, and from one of its huge limbs a stout rope 
was dangling. There, three by three, those thirty-flve 
souls were to be launched into the great future. Not 
one of them was thought fit to live in this world — 
God pity them if they should be found unfit to live in 
any other I Three by three they were marched out, 
surrounded by guards four deep, their rifles at the half- 
trigger. Near by sat the twelve oflBcers of the court on 
horseback, and standing around were not less than a 
thousand riflemen, each one intent upon seeing justice 
done upon the oppressors of their compatriots. Every 
man had his rifle in hand ; so to those thirty-five hap- 
less souls there was no chance of escape, no hope of re- 
prieve — to all human appearance their doom was abso- 
lutely fixed and certain. They felt it to be so, and, to 
do them justice, they were ready to meet their fate like 
men ; they went to the scaffold with as firm a tread as 
ever a soldier went to battle. So nine of them stepped 
from this world into that dim, uncertain realm which 
we call eternity. Among them were the miscreant 
Grimes, who had been driven out from Watauga, and 
other Tory leaders, at the bare recital of whose deeds 
the blood, even now, runs cold with horror. 

In the fourth trio now about to be led to execution 

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was a Tory named Baldwin, a man steeped in crime, 
but who had a trace of goodness in him, or he conld not 
have won the devoted affection of a brother too young to 
know much of this world's wickedness. This lad, a mere 
stripling, had come to say a final farewell ; and now as 
the condemned man was about to be led to the scaffold, 
the youth threw himself upon him with a burst of pas- 
sionate grief that melted the hearts of the by-standers. 
It seemed that only force could separate the two, and 
to this the guard hesitated to resort This hesitation 
gave the lad more time to indulge his frantic grief, and — 
to cut the cords that bound his brother. This done, 
he suddenly relaxed his embrace, and, as suddenly the 
condemned man leaped through the cordon of guards, 
and bounded away into the forest. A thousand rifles 
covered him, every one of which could bring down a 
bird flying, but not one was raised to arrest the fugitive. 
Admiration for the daring of the boy stayed their hands, 
and softer feelings than those which spring from a stem 
sense of retributiye justice took possession of the assem* 
bled riflemen. 

The executions had taken place near the encamp- 
ment of Sevier, and he and Shelby stood together not 
far from the Gallows-Oak when this scene was enacted. 
They observed its effect upon the men, and saw that 
advantage could be taken of it to stop the summary 
proceedings. The men no longer thirsted for vengeance, 
but were open to feelings more akin to humanity. More- 
OTer, nine lives would, as well as thirty-five, assure Corn- 

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wallis and the Tories that farther atrocities would meet 
with a sure retaliation. As they said this to each other^ 
one of the officers of the court complained loudly to 
the guard of the momentary delay^ and commanded 
them^ with great oaths^ to go on more rapidly with the 
executions. This same officer had been attacked with 
*^ stage-fright" toward the close of the action at King's 
Mountain, and had apologized to Shelby for it on the 
day following the battle. Sevier regarded him now 
intently for a moment, then with a smile that was 
peculiar to him, said, *' Why, colonel, if we all had been 
as much in earnest in the action, more would haye been 
killed, and fewer left to be hanged." More abruptly, 
and with less courtesy, Shelby added : *'This work must 
stop. We have talked it over, and it must stop. There 
has been enough of it." The opposition of these two 
men did that which, half an hour before, had seemed to 
be impossible — it saved the lives of the twenty-five con- 
demned Tories. But the execution of the nine had 
its intended effect. Thereafter no more patriots were 
hanged in the Carolinas. 

About two o'clock on the following morning, one of 
the condemned Tories came to Shelby, where he was 
asleep under a tree. "You have saved my life," he 
said to him, "and I will tell you a secret. Tarleton 
will be here in the morning! A woman has brought 
us the news." 

The information was possibly not correct, but pru- 
dence required that it should be acted upon. At any 

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other time it would have been welcome tidings to the 
patriots ; but now, jaded with a long march, half fam- 
ished, and encumbered with a host of prisoners and 
wounded, they were in no condition to meet an onset 
from the impetuous troop of Tarleton. They had for 
days expected an attack, and had made dispositions to 
meet it ; and it is possible that, if the British leader had 
overtaken them, the desperate energy with which they 
would have fought might have brought upon him a like 
disaster to that which soon afterward befell him at the 
Cowpens. But the patriots would have fought at great 
disadvantage, and they prudently resolved to avoid an 
engagement. This could be done only by a forced march 
of thirty-two miles to the ford of the Catawba at Quaker 

This course being decided upon, before the dawn of 
day the little army was set in motion. The badly 
wounded were conveyed to secluded retreats in the 
mountains, the convalescent were mounted on the horses 
of their comrades, and the weary troop took up their 
toilsome way, over a broken and hilly country, and a 
rough and stony road, impassable except for horse and 
foot-passengers. Not a pound of provisions was in the 
camp at starting, and not a soul in the cavalcade — offi- 
cers or men, prisoners or wounded — tasted food during 
the weary march of twenty-four hours that followed. It 
was not long before they were overtaken by the storm 
which the previous night had foretold. The rain began 
to fall shortly after daybreak, and soon it came down 

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in torrents. Bnt this onlj hastened their moyementSy 
for it foreboded a freshet in the riyers^ and their safety 
depended npon reaching the Catawba while it was still 
fordable. So, all through the day« and far into a cold 
and dismal night, they marched, the mud up to their 
knees, and often losing their way in the woods ; but at 
last, worn out with fatigue and fasting, and eyery one 
of them, from the leaders to the meanest priyate, "as 
wet as if he had been dragged through the Catawba, '^ 
they arrived at the bank of that riyer. It was two 
o'clock in the morning, intensely dark, and the Catawba 
was breast-high and rapidly rising ; but they plunged at 
once into the rushing stream, and eyery man of them 
reached the opposite shore in safety. In three more 
hours the riyer had risen far beyond its banks, and for 
many days it was an impassable barrier between the 
patriots and any pursuit from Tarleton. 

But, strange as it may seem, while the patriots were 
thus retreating from the British, Tarleton and Corn- 
wallis were fleeing from them, quite as rapidly, and in 
a much more disorderly manner. The panic which 
seized upon the British commander was the first fruits 
of the battle of King's Mountain. And yet the tidings 
brought by the condemned Tory to Shelby were sub- 
stantially true. Not hearing from Ferguson, and in total 
ignorance of his fate, Comwallis, on the morning of the 
10th — three days after the King's Mountain battle^— dis- 
patched Tarleton, with a strong body of horse and artil- 
lery, to find Ferguson, and aid him in exterminating the 

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rebels from over the mountains, Tarleton marched that 
day twenty miles on the direct route of the patriots, 
and, had he continued the pursuit, would have come up 
with them on the morning that information of his move- 
ments came to Shelby. But at his first night's encamp- 
ment he was oyertaken by a messenger from Cornwallis, 
recalling him at once to headquarters. 

Soon after Tarleton had set out, the British com- 
mander learned, from a " venerable Whig '* in whom he 
had confidence, of the total defeat of Ferguson by the 
over-mountain men, who then, he was told, three thou- 
sand strong, flushed with yictory, and daily re-enforced 
by the patriots of Mecklenburg County, were marching 
to attack him in his headquarters. During the day this 
information was conflrmed, and Cornwallis suddenly re- 
solved to turn his back upon this new enemy, who had 
thus unexpectedly descended upon him from the mount- 
ains. With Tarleton detached, and Ferguson destroyed, 
he thought himself in no condition to meet such a foe 
as rumor pictured the over-mountain men — a horde of 
giants, fearless of danger, enamored of fight, deadly sure 
with the rifle, clad in the Indian hunting-shirt, and, 
like the Indians, rashing into battle with an unearthly 
yell which sent a strange paralysis through the frame, 
and froze the heart of the bravest stock-still with horror. 
These were not the soldiers Cornwallis came out to fight ; 
so, recalling Tarleton, he began a hasty and disastrous 
retreat toward Charleston. I need not recount the rest, 
for it is well-known history. 

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The British power in the colonies was broken at 
King's Mountain. ** That glorious victory," said Jeflfer- 
son, '^ was the joyful annunciation of that turn in the 
tide of success which terminated the BeTolutionaiy War 
with the seal of independence." And it was more than a 
"turn in the tide" — ^it was the cause, the actiye force 
which set in motion the train of great eyents that fol- 
lowed. To it may be directly traced Blackstocks, Cow- 
pens, Guilford, Eutaw, and the crowning victory of York- 
town. And this victory, so pregnant with great results, 
was won by men who rushed spontaneously to the rescue 
of their country. They acted without orders, without 
pay, without bope of reward, and did not demand so 
much as the thanks of their government. Had they 
done so, they might have been disappointed ; for the 
greatest hero among them lies to-day in a far-away, un- 
tended grave, overgrown with weeds, and unmarked by 
even a stone to tell his name to his passing country- 

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The object of the expedition being now accom- 
plished, and the little army in absolute security, Sevier 
was at liberty to think of the poorly defended settlers 
he had left behind on the Watauga. He had been away 
twenty days; six or eight more days must necessarily 
elapse before he could arrive at his home ; and, beyond 
a doubt, his absence would be no sooner known among 
the Cherokees than Oconostota would set his warriors 
in motion for a descent upon the settlements. This 
thought had often weighed upon his mind, on the long 
march and in the desperate battle ; but uutil now he 
could not leave his comrades without endangering the 
results of the expedition. It was therefore vnth a feel- 
ing of intense relief that, on the^moming after the ar- 
rival of the patriots at Quaker Meadows, he saw the Ca- 
tawba a broad and furious flood, totally impassable for 
either foot or horsemen. Giving his men only time 
enough to refresh themselyes vrith food and rest, he 
called them all about him, and asked those who felt 
equal to a rapid homeward march to step a few paces 
f orwarda The movement was so general that Sevier was 

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forced to make his own selection^ and, choosing about 
a hundred of the best-conditioned^ he dispatched them 
at once^ under Captain Russell^ oyer the mountains. 
With the remainder of his own, and the most of Shelby's 
force^ he was to follow as soon as the men were able 
to set out on the journey. Shelby himself was to re- 
main with the prisoners till they were conducted to a 
place of security in Virginia. With Shelby continued 
about fifty of his own and Seyier's riflemen, who, enlist- 
ing afterward with Morgan, came to share under Moses 
Shelby in the glory of defeating Tarleton at the Cow- 
pens, and in the subsequent capture of Augusta, Georgia. 
Seyier would have giyen his weary troops a longer rest, 
but his impatience had infected them, and at two o'clock 
of that afternoon they set out on the march homeward. 
They arrived not an hour too soon, as Sevier learned 
when he alighted at the doorway of his home on the 
Nolichucky. Awaiting him there was Isaac Thomas, 
the Indian trader, who, with another trader named Har- 
lin, had been sent forward by Nancy Ward to warn Se- 
vier that the entire Creek and Cherokee nations were 
on the war-path, and about to move in strong force 
upon Watauga. Thomas had arrived several days before, 
and the tidings he brought had spread general alarm 
throughout the settlements. Leaving their dwdlinga 
and their garnered crops, the more remote of tho set- 
tlers had fled to the fort for protection. Major Charles 
Bobertson had made the best dispositions for defense 
that were possible, but the cry everywhere was for So-. 

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Tier. "When is Nolichucky Jack coming?'' Without 
him there was fear, with him a sense of abaolute security. 
So, sometimes, is one man stronger than a thousand. 

Sevier listened to the rejKjrt of Thomas while he sat, 
travel-stained, and wearied with a long march, by a great 
wood-fire in the *^ reception-room" of his log dwelling. 
By his side was his young wife, and around him were 
his two manly boys, his brother Valentine, and several 
of his oflBcers on the expedition. His brother Robert 
he had left behind on the march across Yellow Mount- 
ain, and his dead body was even then being borne to a 
lonely grave on the banks of the Watauga. After lis- 
tening to the report of Thomas, Sevier announced the 
necessity of setting out at once to meet the Cherokees. 
They must be checked before they reached the crossing 
of the French Broad River. Once there, they would 
break into small parties, and scatter havoc and burn- 
ing throughout the settlements. With Russell's com- 
mand, which had been refreshed by two days' rest, he 
would set out to meet the Indians as soon as "Kate" 
had given him a dinner. With that hundi*ed he would 
hold the savages in check, till the rest of his men could 
come up with him ; but they should follow as soon as 
men and horses had a few days' rest and refreshment. 

Thus, with scarcely an hour's delay, and after twenty- 
eight days of hard riding, Sevier sprang again into the 
saddle, and with only a hundred men went forth to 
meet a thousand. All night they marched, and on the 
evening of the second day went into camp on Long 

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Creek, not far from the crossing of the French Broad 
Eiver. They were on the great Indian war-path, which 
ronte the Indians would naturally take ; but as yet they 
had seen no trace of the savftges. However, the settle- 
ments were now safely behind them, and they could 
proceed with less haste and more caution. As they 
went into camp at nightfall, they sent forward a small 
party to reconnoitre. On ascending a slight knoll at 
a short distance, the little force of twenty came sud- 
denly upon a thousand savages. Without stopping to 
dismount, they fired upon the Indians ; then, turning 
their horses' heads, they rode rapidly back to the en- 
campment. Sevier at once put his men into position 
for a night attack, and thus they lay on their arms till 
the morning, expecting every moment to hear the war- 
whoop of the savages. Before daybreak they were joiued 
by seventy of the men who had been left behind on the 
Nolichucky. Worn and weary as they were, these men 
had clamored to be led to the help of their beloved 

Thus re-enforced, Sevier advanced in the morning to 
meet the enemy. He moved cautiously, with scouts in 
front, and outliers on both flanks, but he marched all 
day without encountering an enemy. A dead Indian was 
found at the spot where the advance had come upon 
them on the previous evening, and this showed that the 
savages had retreated in haste and disorder, for their in- 
variable custom was to bear off their killed and wounded. 
Here were found traces of a body numbering hot less 

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than a thousand. Their spies had, no donht, discov- 
ered Seyier's re-enforcement of the night before, and its 
numbers, magnified by their fears, had led their main 
body to fall hastily back to* a position better fitted for an 
ambuscade. This Sevier conjectured, and he also now 
knew their strength, but he pressed more vigorously for- 
ward. Crossing the French Broad at what is now 
known as Sevier's Island, he went into camp on Boyd's 
Creek, where was shed the first blood that Watauga 
offered up in the Bevolution. Here the men slept again 
on their arms, momently expecting an attack, but the 
night wore away without any demonstration from the 

Soon after daybreak the little army was again in 
motion. Sevier rode with the advance-guard, which, at 
the distance of three miles, came upon the deserted camp 
of the Indians, their fires not yet extinguished. Giving 
orders that his men should form in three divisions, the 
right wing under Major Walton, the left under Major 
Jonathan Tipton, the center to be led by himself, he 
galloped forward with a small party to unearth the 
enemy, and draw them on to an attack. He had gone 
but thi'ee fourths of a mile when he came upon the 
Indians, concealed in the tall grass, and formed in a 
half-moon, evidently with the intention to inclose his 
little army. He was on the alert, but the hasty firing of 
a few braves fully disclosed their position. Giving his 
little party directions to fire, and then to retreat slowly, 
loading and firing, he galloped rapidly back to the main 

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body. To them he gave orders which, had they been 
fully executed, would have enveloped and destroyed the 
enemy. The right wing was to wheel to the left, the 
left wing to the right, while he, with the center, met the 
onset of the savages. Thus exposed to a triple fire, the 
Indians must have suflEered terribly, and, if they did not 
overpower the whites by sheer force of numbers, few of 
them would be left to carry the tidings of defeat back to 

As was expected, the Indians rushed rapidly forward 
in pursuit of the decoy party till their advance was 
checked by a terrible fire from the center under Sevier. 
Then Walton wheeled to the left, with as much precision 
as if on parade, and the left wing attempted the same 
movement ; but at this moment Tipton, who had fought 
bravely by the side of Sevier at King's Mountain, fell, 
badly wounded. This disconcerted his men and di3- 
layed the movement, and now the Indians, mowed down 
by Sevier's fire and seeing they were likely to be 
surrounded, were seized with sudden panic, and broke 
through the gap in front of the left wing, fleeing wildly 
across a swamp which lined the banks of the streamlet. 
Instantly Sevier ordered a charge, and his men, spring- 
ing upon their horses, plunged into the morass, their 
leader in the advance. He had emptied his pistols upon 
the fleeing savages, when he came close upon a stalwart 
warrior, who, seeing he was about to be overtaken, 
turned and fired at him from a distance of not more 
than ten paces. The ball grazed Sevier's temple and 

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AN I2n)IAN WAR. 281 

cat away a lock of his hair^ but^ spurring his horse for- 
ward, he raised his sword and aimed a heavy blow at 
the Indian. The savage parried the stroke with his rifle, 
and a desperate encounter followed with sword and gun- 
barrel. It was a contest of agility and skill with im- 
mense strength and brute bravery, and for a few moments 
the issue seemed doubtful ; but, at length, one of Sevier's 
men, coming up, leveled his rifle and dispatched the 

Dragging Canoe was not personally known among the 
whites. His visits to them had been at night, and they 
had seen his features only at long range of a rifle, when 
they were not easily distinguished. But Indians subse- 
quently captured affirmed that the warrior now killed 
was none other than the ferocious chieftain of the Chick- 
amaugas. It is certain that from this date he disappears 
from border history. If this were he, then this most 
implacable foe of the whites met his fate on the very 
spot where he had shed the first blood of the settlers. 

The Indians scattered among the adjacent woods and 
hills, where they could not be pursued by cavalry. They 
left twenty-eight dead on the field, and carried away a 
large number of wounded. Of the whites not one was 
killed, and only Major Tipton and two others were scr 
riously wounded. This result was due to the short con- 
flict and the rapid fire of the backwoodsmen. 

Sevier was now between the settlements and the re- 
treating Indians, and, the object of his rapid march being 

thus accomplished, he went into camp on Sevier's Island, 

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to wait for his expected re-enforcements. With so small 
a force it was not deemed prudent to penetrate farther 
into the Indian country in the face of so large a body of 
the enemy, who at every step might receive additions to 
their numbers. However, it was not long before Se- 
vier was joined by more of his own men from Watauga, 
a force of Backwater troops under Arthur Campbell, and 
a portion of Shelby's regiment under Major Martin — 
Shelby himself being still away with the King's Mount- 
ain prisoners. The little army now numbered seven 
hundred, every man experienced in Indian warfare, and 
many of them tried in the furnace of King's Mountain. 
With such a force Sevier did not hesitate to push for- 
ward into the Cherokee and Creek country, where he 
might be opposed by a force of ten times his own number 
— led, perhaps, by exasperated Tories and British officers. 

At Echota Sevier found a body of a thousand savages 
posted to defend the principal crossing of the Little Ten- 
nessee ; but, passing over at a ford two miles below, he 
came suddenly upon their rear, and, without striking a 
blow, they fled to the mountains. The Indian towns 
thus left to their mercy, the troops began the work of 
destruction. For the sake of Nancy Ward, Echota was 
again spared, but every other village of the Ottari Chero- 
kees was given to the flames. Their corn was burned, 
their cattle were destroyed, and not a solitary wigwam 
was left to shelter their wives and children from the win- 
ter that was fast approaching. 

A like fate befell the villages along the Tellico and 

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Hiwassee, and then Sevier pressed on to the Chicka- 
mauga towns, near the present site of Chattanooga. 
The Tory and Indian banditti that herded together 
there fled, as he approached, to their secret haunts along 
the river, from which they soon beheld their crops and 
their homes going up in one wide conflagration, while the 
blood of their slaughtered cattle dyed red the Tennessee 
to the very mouth of the immense cavern in which they 
had concealed themselves. This done, Sevier pressed on 
again into the country of the Creeks. Going down the 
Coosa Siver into Georgia as far as the region of the long- 
leaved pine and the cypress, his route was everywhere 
marked by blackened ruin and wide-spread devastation. 
Everywhere the Indians fled before him. A general 
panic had seized upon them. Only a few days before, 
they had heard that Nolichucky Jack was away, fighting 
the British in the Carolinas, and now he was applying 
the torch to their own dwellings ! The pale-faced chief 
was ubiquitous, and a conflict with him was a war with 
destiny. When his sword was once unsheathed, it drank 
Indian blood as the earth drinks rain— ever thirsty and 
never satisfied. And there was some truth in this, for 
the few men that were met were shot down without 
mercy. Only the women and children were taken pris- 
oners. More than fifty towns were destroyed; and 
the homes of over forty thousand people laid in ashes ! 
There was not a cultivated field in the whole of this 
Indian country that was not a scorched and smoking 
desolation. Not for years could the Creeks and Chero- 

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kees recoyer from the wide-spread destruction. And 
yet the man who caused all this havoc was of a nature 
most kind and gentle and tender-hearted, the idol of his 
friends and beloved by his very enemies. A terrible 
necessity impelled him. In no other way could he re- 
duce the Indians to peace, or protect the homes and lives 
of the white settlers. 

The life of only one white man was lost on this ex- 
pedition. It was that of Captain James Elliott, who 
had fought under Shelby at King's Mountain. He was 
shot by a concealed Indian when the troops first arrived 
on the Tellico, and his death served to inflame them to 
a more ruthless destruction. He was buried in an In- 
dian hut, which was burned over his grave, that the 
Indians might not find and mutilate his body. 

After sixty-five days, Sevier returned to Echota, and 
from there issued an address to the Indians. The pa- 
per bears unmistakable marks of his composition, but 
it is signed jointly by him and the two other leaders, 
Martin and Campbell. It was as follows : 

" Chiefs and Warriors : We came into your coun- 
try to fight your young men. We have killed many of 
them, and destroyed your towns. You know you began 
the war by listening to the bad counsels of the King of 
England and the falsehoods told you by his agents. We 
are now satisfied with what is done, as it may convince 
your nation that we can distress you much at any time 
when you are so foolish as to engage in war against us. 

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If you desire peace, as we understand you do, we, out of 
pity to your women and children, are disposed to treat 
with you on that subject. 

**We therefore send you this by one of your young 
men, who is our prisoner, to tell you that, if you are dis- 
posed to make peace, six of your head men must come to 
our agent, Major Martin, at the Great Island, within two 
moons, so as to give him time to meet them with a flag- 
guard, at the boundary-line on Holston Eiver. To the 
wives and children of those men of your nation who pro- 
tested against the war, if they are willing to take refuge 
at the Great Island until peace is restored, we will give 
a supply of provisions to keep them alive. 

*^ Warriors, listen attentively I If we receive no an- 
swer to this message until the time already mentioned 
expires, we shall then conclude that you intend to con- 
tinue to be our enemies. We will then be compelled to 
send another strong force into your country, that will 
come prepared to remain in it and to take possession of 
it as a conquered country, without making you any com- 

In answer to this addiess, a body of about two 
hundred Cherokees, among whom were Hanging Maw, 
John Watts, and Noonday, three of the principal Ottari 
chieftains, came, within a short time, into Echota. 
Through them a peace was made with the Ottari branch 
oi the Oherokees, and an exchange of prisoners effected, 
by which numbers of white women and children were 

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restored to their homes after months and, in a few 
instances^ years of captivity. These things done^ the 
troops scattered to their homes, and Sevier returned to 
his farm on the Nolichucky. Arrived there, he learned 
that the General Assembly of North Carolina, at its first 
session after the defeat of Ferguson, had passed a resolu- 
tion that a sword and pair of pistols should be presented 
to both himself and Shelby, in testimony of the great 
services they had rendered the country. The swords 
were not delivered till 1813. The one given to Sevier 
was donated to the State by his son, George Washington 
Sevier, and it now hangs in the office of the Secretary of 
State in the Capitol at Nashville. On one side of it is 
engraved — 

"State of North Carolina 



On the other side is — 

"King's Mountain, 
7th October, 1780." 

At the same time Sevier received a commission from 
Governor Nash, of North Carolina, appointing him colo- 
nel commandant of Washington County. Hitherto, for 
ten years, he had been commander by the universal suf- 
frage of the people, and in virtue of his eminent quali- 
fications for leadership. Commissioned colonels, much 
his seniors, had been content to serve under him, and 
his men had never failed to follow where he led ; hence 

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it is not very clear of what particular value this com- 
mission was to Sevier. With or without it, he had to 
serve without pay, and be his own commissary. More 
gratifying to him, doubtless, was a resolve of the General 
Assembly of the State, which was transmitted soon aft- 
erward. It was dated February 13, 1781, and was as 
follows : 

^^ Eesolved, That Colonel Isaac Shelby, of Sullivan 
County, and John Sevier, Esq., of Washington County, 
be informed by this resolve, which shall be communi- 
cated to them, that the General Assembly of this State 
are. feelingly impressed with the very generous and patri- 
otic services rendered by the inhabitants of the said coun- 
ties, to which their influence has in a great degree con- 
tributed. And it is earnestly urged that they would 
press a continuance of the same active exertion ; that the 
state of the country is such as to call forth its utmost 
powers immediately, in order to preserve its freedom and 

In communicating this resolve, the Governor drew a 
melancholy picture of the condition of seaboard Carolina. 
The Tories had again risen everywhere, and, banded to- 
gether, were carrying blood and havoc into the homes of 
the patriots. Comwallis was again advancing, and de- 
tachments from his army were laying waste the most 
fertile and populous districts of the State. This being 
the condition of things, the Governor conjured Sevier and 
Shelby to rush again to the rescue of their distressed fel- 
low-citizens. General Greene also wrote Sevier, remind- 

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ing him of his glorious services at King's Mountain, and 
earnestly urging him to come to his aid with as many of 
his mountaineers as he could muster. These appeals fell 
on willing ears, but Sevier's hands were tied — ^his men 
had now again to defend their own firesides. However, 
he dispatched a small force under Charles Eobertson to 
Greene, and they soon afterward gave a good account of 
themselves at Guilford Court-House. Had he been able 
to go himself with his whole force, it is possible that the 
disaster which overtook Comwallis at Yorktown might 
have overwhelmed him at Guilford seven months pre- 

The picture which the Governor drew of the condi- 
tion of the eastern counties was only too true. The 
anaconda had been scotched, not killed, by the defeat at 
King's Mountain and the terrible punishment inflicted 
by Sevier upon the Creeks and Cherokees. At Winns- 
boro, after a disastrous retreat of a hundred miles, Com- 
wallis recovered from the panic which had overtaken him 
when he thought himself pursued by three thousand 
victorious over mountain men. There he learned that 
they had retired to their lairs beyond the AUeghanies, 
and, sending north for re-enforcements, he prepared to 
resume his fatal project of a march northward through 
the Carolinas and Virginia. Joined by General Leslie 
with fifteen hundred men, he had already put his army 
in motion, when he heard that Sevier was sweeping with 
a besom of destruction through the Indian country. But 
this in no way disheartened him. The misery of forty 

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or fifty thousand half-clad savages did not lie very heavy 
upon his lordship's conscience. If the now famous over- 
mountain leader could be kept where he was — prevented 
from descending upon his flank with his " yelling devils " 
— ^the march of Comwallis might yet be triumphant, for 
Greene alone could not, he thought, offer any effectual 
resistance to his progress. 

It was, therefore, of prime importance to keep the 
over-mountain men busy at home with the Greeks and 
Gherokees. In this the agents of Gomwallis were helped 
by a division among the Indians. A strong party under 
the lead of Old Tassel, John Watts, Noonday, and Hang- 
ing Maw, were in favor of observing the peace which 
had been agreed upon at Echota; but a still stronger 
party, headed by the unconquerable old Oconostota, were 
violent for war till either they or the white settlers 
should be exterminated. They looked upon their ruined 
fields, their burned dwellings, and the new-made graves 
of their fallen braves, only to feel a keener thirst for 
vengeance, a deeper hatred of the accursed race who had 
encroached upon their hunting-grounds and desecrated 
the homes of their ancestors. True, Dragging Ganoe 
was dead, but his spirit stiU lived among the Ghicka- 
maugas ; the country of the Ottari was devastated, but 
their warriors remained, well armed, and eager to meet 
the whites ; and, more than this, the homes of the Erati 
had never yet been invaded ; they had com in plenty, 
and their twelve hundred warriors were burning to 
avenge the wrongs inflicted upon their brothers on the 

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other side of the Smoky Mountains. It was not diffi- 
cnlt for the British agents to fan this inflammable mass 
into a flame. What was it to them if the simple savages 
shonld rush upon certain destruction ? What cared they, 
so long as they accomplished the object of the British 
general, to keep Sevier west of the mountains? In 
this, for the entire summer of 1781, they were suc- 

Sevier returned from the Boyd's Creek expedition in 
February, and early in March he discovered that there 
was to be no peace with the Cherokees. They did not 
appear in any large body, but small parties hung about 
the more remote settlements, descending upon some un- 
guarded dwelling and whelming men, women, and chil- 
dren in indiscriminate massacre. Instantly garrisons 
were stationed in the most exposed positions, and a cor- 
don of light troops was placed all along the frontier. 

The wide extent of territory to be guarded involved 
the employment of so many of Sevier's men, that — the 
detachment being still away with Greene — it would seem 
to have been impossible for him to muster a force strong 
enough for any important offensive operation. And yet, 
at this very time, he undertook and executed the most 
brilliant exploit- in his history — one which, I think, has 
no parallel in the achievements of George Rogers Clark, 
or any other border soldier. He had become convinced 
that some of the recent raids had been perpetrated by 
the Erati Cherokees, who had their homes high up in 
the gorges of the Smoky Mountains, the gigantic range 

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which is now the southwestern boundary between Ten- 
nessee and North Carolina. These Indians were a body 
of bold, hardy mountaineers, twelve hundred strong, and 
their country was intrenched amid rocky fastnesses that 
were reported to be impregnable. Few white men had 
ever visited their stronghold, and those who had, re- 
ported it unassailable by any civilized soldiery. By any 
route that could then be taken it was two hundred miles 
from Watauga, and the way to it was through trackless 
forests, across furious torrents and dangerous rivers, and 
over mountains, steep and rugged, and loftier than any 
east of the Mississippi. Only one white man at Watauga — 
Isaac Thomas — had ever entered this stronghold, and he 
had gone to it through the Indian country, on its south- 
western side, from which it was always approached by 
its inhabitants. No Indian, no white trader or hunter, 
was known to have ever entered it from the eastern side, 
and of this region civilized man was as ignorant as of the 
interior of Africa. It is to-day as wild a country as is 
anywhere to be found on this continent. But from this 
side Sevier determined to approach it, and with but one 
hundred and thirty men to storm this inaccessible posi- 
tion, defended as it was by twelve hundred brave mount- 
aineeiu He took but one hundred and thirty, because 
not another man could be spared from the defense of the 
settlements. With Isaac Thomas as guide, he set out 
early in March, when the streams are at their highest and 
the snow still lies upon the upper slopes of the mount- 
ains. I say with Isaac Thomas as guide, but Thomas 

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knew nothing of the route ; he could only direct Sevier 
when they should have arrived in the enemy's country. 

So, with only a compass to direct his way, Sevier set 
out on his adventurous expeditio!n. Crossing the Koli- 
chucky near his home, he followed up the western bank 
of the French Broad, fording the river near what is now 
known as the Painted Bocks, and thence passing on to 
Warm Springs, which had been discovered by two hunt- 
ers in 1778, but had not yet a single inhabitant. Here 
he climbed the banks of Laurel Run, and then, striking 
southward, ascended the Walnut Mountains — ^a trackless 
waste of rock and tangled forest, with not a path, nor 
a trail, nor even a trace blazed by a passing hunter. 
Thenceforward his way for more than a hundred miles 
lay through a wilderness, where human foot had scarcely 
trod, and man was so strange a sight that even the timid 
deer and wild rabbit came out from their coverts to gaze 
on the cavalcade as it passed. 

Over fallen trees and through matted underbrush 
the over-mountain men kept their way, now scaling some 
huge, slippery rock, and now floundering along some 
steep, stony ravine, where one false step of his horse 
might plunge the rider down headlong ; and at the end 
of twenty miles from Warm Springs they came to the 
Ivy, a mountain torrent then two hundred feet wide, and 
rushing to the French Broad with the speed of a fright- 
ened animal. Its waters were too deep to ford, and the 
furious current would have appalled even the boldest 
swimmer ; but these skillful horsemen plunged fearlessly 

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into the torrent, and, though swept nearly a thousand 
feet down the stream, gained the opposite bank in safety. 

Then their way lay through a less broken country, 
over gently rolling hills, gradually descending and slop- 
ing southward — the home now of the fragrant " golden- 
leaf,^' of fame among tobacco-smokers. Till then the 
French Broad had been lined with inaccessible cliffs, but 
soon they came to sloping banks, along which they 
wound for another twenty miles till they arrived at the 
Swananoa — ^the river of the dancing waters — ^not far from 
the present town of Asheville. They were now in the 
latitude of the Erati, but sixty miles away as the bird 
flies, and, by the route they must pursue, all of a hun- 
dred. Turning, therefore, their faces due west, they 
forded the Swananoa, and then the French Broad, and 
struck again into a never-trodden wilderness. For here, 
so far as is known, man had never been, nor any living 
thing save the beasts of the forest. And here again the 
wild creatures came out to meet them — the startled deer, 
the growling panther, and the surly bear ; the meat of 
which last, seasoned with the salt they carried in their 
knapsacks, was their favorite ration, varied only with 
parched-corn meal, sweetened with maple-sugar, of which 
a month's supply was slung across their saddles. 

By good fortune they soon struck an open gorge, 
trending westward — the Balsam Gap, through which 
now runs the road into this wild region. When not 
upon the Walnut Mountains they had hitherto trav- 
ersed a country two thousand feet and more above the 

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sea ; but now they were constantly ascending, till eyen 
the yalleys were at an altitnde of more than half a mile. 
The air here is clear and pure, and laden with all the 
odors of the forest, and the mountain-streams are limpid 
and cool, and sparkling in their purity. If man had 
only to minister to his physical needs, and to admire the 
beauties of his earthly habitation, this region would be 
the spot wherein to doze away existence. But Sevier 
had work in hand ; consciously or unconsciously, he was 
acting an important part in the great drama of human 
history, and, though this was but a minor act, he was 
intent upon the business before him. 

So, in the clear, unclouded sky of spring he climbed 
those rocky ways — ^twenty miles in a day — till, at noon 
of the tenth day from his leaving home, he came to 
Clingman's Dome, where it rose, a giant earthquake- 
mound, right across his pathway. He had measured 
the distance by the speed of his horse, and now he felt 
sure that he was in the region of the Erati. In this view 
Thomas coincided, but the old woodman was at a loss for 
the bearing of the Indian towns. The question could 
be answered only by ascending the mountain, and from 
some opening along its slope, or^ the bald spot upon its 
summit, obtaining a view of the surrounding country. 
A peculiar feature of all these Smoky Mountains is these 
bald spots on their tops, where neither tree nor bush 
grows, but the soil is deep and the grass luxuriant. Ac- 
cording to Indian tradition, they are the foot-prints of 
the Great Spirit of Evil, left when he has come to the 

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earth, and strode from mountain-top to mountain-top in 
the darkness, the lightning, and the thunder. One may 
not see why his Satanic lordship needs go up so high to 
get a view of this world's wickedness ; but this he does, 
if Cherokee legend is to be trusted. 

The foot of man had neyer scaled Olingman's Dome, 
but Sevier determined to climb its wooded slopes to its 
very summit, where it soars aloft, gigantic, cloud-pierc- 
ing, and higher than any peak but one among the Ap- 
palachians; and with broad vision looks down on all 
things not bounded by the rotundity of this planet. 
His horse, and the bulk of his men, he left at the base 
of the slope, and then, with Isaac Thomas and a half- 
dozen others, Sevier slowly and on foot climbed the 
steep and lofty mountain. Its lower slopes are to this 
day clothed with majestic forests of cherry, walnut, and 
poplar ; but, as one goes up, these giant trees give way 
to the slender pine, the scrub-oak, and the gnarled 
beech, and, still higher up, the somber balsam, tapering 
a hundred and fifty feet toward the clouds. As it is 
now, so it was then, for the woodman had not then, nor 
has he yet, invaded these forest solitudes. These differ- 
ent growths denote different degrees of temperature, 
and, when one is at the summit, he is in the climate of 

The little party set out about noon, but it was after 
nightfall when they had climbed to the top of the 
mountain. Midway up they came into a cloud, which 
drenched them like a fine rain ; but, when they arrived 

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at the sammit, the sky was clear^ and the moon and stard 
were shining. They had ascended aboTe the cloud, 
which now overhung earth and forest like a wide pall of 
inky blackness, shutting all below from their vision. 
The summit was carpeted with a deep, green sward, 
sprinkled with heather and rhododendron. I do not 
know that the idea occurred to them ; but once, in a 
similar position^ it seemed to me that I was cut off from 
the earth, and floating almost alone on a green island 
through the infinite spaces of creation. It was not long 
before an occasional gleam lit up the cloud, followed by 
low, rumbling thunder. Soon the gleams became flash- 
ing sheets of fire, zigzagging through the dense mass, and 
awaking echoes as loud as the explosion of a thousand 
parks of artillery* The first was the skirmish-fire, this 
last the discharges of warring battalions. Quicker and 
louder they grew, till the whole world below was in a 
fiery commotion — ^flash following flash, and each flash 
revealing a cloudy sea, in which the black mountain- 
peaks around seemed like islands in some fearfully dis- 
turbed ocean. At the height of the storm the cloud 
below was a rolling flame, casting a light like that of 
day upon the bare mountain-tops and the tall balsams 
that grew near their summits. These men had seen 
King's Mountain, its volleys of fire, and the sulphurous 
flame that girdled the hill in the crisis of the conflict ; 
but what was that, or any struggle of puny man, to this 
fearful battling of the elements ? If one would learn 
''man's place in nature," he should witness some such 

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storm from the summit of a high mountain, the world 
below wrapped in flame, and he standing, as it were, 
in the Tery presence of the Infinite. After a time the 
storm broke, the cloud fled away, and then these men, 
looking down, beheld the camp-fires of their comrades 
at the foot of the mountain. The men below were 
drenched with the storm, while the blankets of those 
above were as dry as if rain had neyer fallen. Wrapping 
these about them, they soon sank into such sleep as is 
apt to follow hard riding. 

The morning sun disclosed to Seyier a scene of un- 
paralleled magnificence. He was" in a wilderness of 
mountains. Directly around him rose thirty-three peaks, 
aU six thousand feet and more above the sea, and some 
of them several hundred feet higher than Mount Wash- 
ington ; while farther away were the Black and Bald 
Mountains, the Blue Ridge, the Balsam, Cowee, and 
Nantihala ranges, and the tall Unakas, interspersed 
with lower ridges, and broken by deep valleys, and all 
bathed in a sea of green that shone in the sun like bur- 
nished copper. For two hundred miles in every di- * 
rection the country was open to his vision. It lay at 
his feet in one vast forest-fringed panorama — a rolling 
ocean of verdure. Far away at the northeast, where 
the deep green of the woods melted into a misty purple, 
he could trace the courses of the Holston, the Watauga, 
and his own Nolichucky, and, nearer by, the silvery 
windings of the Tennessee as it rushed past the strong- 
hold of the Chickamaugas. 

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But the yiew at the south was the one which riveted 
Sevier's attention. There the Little Tennessee breaks 
through the mountains^ in a broader floods and amid 
deeper gorges, than those which have won for the region 
of the French Broad the name of being the most pictur- 
esque in this country. This region is interlaced by ro- 
mantic streams — the Oconalufta, the Tuckasege, and the 
Nantihala, and threaded by deep, secluded valleys, which 
are walled in by precipitous cliffs and precipices. Se- 
vier knew these valleys to be the homes of the Erati, 
but his eye ranged in vain for any sign of life in all the 
wide, forest covered region. At last he thought he de- 
tected a slight haze, a thin mist, rising from the very 
base of the mountain on which he was standing. It 
seemed directly below him, but his experienced eye knew 
it to be miles away, and the smoke of an Indian village. 
Between it and him was the Welch Bald, a mountain 
a mile in height, but, that crossed on its lower slopes, 
he would be in the country of the enemy. 

Rapidly now Sevier descended the lofty Dome, and 
put his force in motion to pass the Welch Bald before 
nightfall. Its sides were so steep that the men were 
obliged to dismount and lead their horses, and in many 
places to almost drag them up the acclivities ; but, this 
obstacle surmounted, their way was less arduous. They 
went into camp for the night among the trees, but with 
the first streak of day were again in motion, and not 
long after noon stood upon the heights above the prin- 
cipal Indian village of Tuckasege. Here noiselessly 

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they tethered their horses, ate a hasty meal, and then, 
still more noiselessly, descended upon the Erafci. 

The rest is soon told. Taken by surprise, the In- 
dians made scarcely any resistance. Fifty of their war- 
riors were slain on the spot, and a large number of 
women and children taken prisoners. The other war- 
riors fled into the forest, and, scattering among the 
remaining villages, spread everywhere the tidings that 
" ^Chncky Jack " was among them ! A general panic en- 
sued, and men, women, and children hid themselves in 
inaccessible haunts among the mountains, where they 
could not be followed. Then the torch was set to the 
Indian villages. Nearly twenty were burned, all the 
grain and cattle were destroyed, and the whole country 
was laid waste, and so left— a smoking desolation. Thus 
were these savages made to drink of the chalice they had 
held to the lips of the white settlers. This work done, 
Sevier returned by the way he came, with his prisoners. 
They would be of use to exchange for the whites who 
were held captive among the Indians. The expedition 
lasted twenty-nine days, and not a man upon it was 
either killed or wounded. 

This ruthless destruction broke the spirit of the 
Erati, and almost to a man they united with the peace 
party, which, under Old Tassel, was now making strong 
headway in the nation. Two thirds of the Cherokee 
warriors at once suspended hostilities ; but still, his old 
hatred fanned by the British agents, Oconostota held 
out, and with him the turbulent tribe of Ohickamauga 

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outlaws. Afraid to meet the whites in the open field, 
they hnng aa usual about the more exposed settlements, 
and those to a large extent had to be abandoned by the 
settlers. Sevier patrolled every road and every by-path 
in the territory, but he could not guard every detached 
farm-house. His men frequently routed small bodies of 
the Indians, neither asking nor giving quarter ; and one 
night in August, Sevier himself surrounded and exter- 
minated a party of about twenty; but no engagement 
of any consequence occurred during the season. It was 
a constant guerrilla warfare, in which Sevier's whole 
force was engaged, without rest, aa well as without glory. 
At last, the Chickamaugas, tiring of continual defeat, 
drew off to their homes, and there sought solace in their 
misfortunes by making a scape-goat of the decrepit old 
Oconostota. They accused him to the nation of being 
the cause of all its disasters ; and, thus re-enforced, the 
peace party had no difficulty in dethroning the old king, 
and electing in his stead the moderate and peace-loving 
Old Tassel. 

Such was the inglorious fate of the ablest chief ever 
known among the Oherokees, who in his youth had been 
courted by George II, and for fifty years had held al- 
most despotic sway over nearly ten thousand Creek and 
Cherokee warriors. For twenty years longer, without 
power or influence, he was to wander about, begging a 
measure of meal, or a gallon of whisky, from his '^ white 
brothers,^' and then, a homeless, weak, besotted, and 
despised old man, he was to sink into the grave, seeing 

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the entire sabjngation of his country, and feeling that it 
had been brought about by his persistent folly in listen- 
ing to the counsels of the Cabinet of Great Britain. 
The news of Oconostota^s deposition came to Sevier early 
in September, and it was not many weeks afterward be- 
fore he was again called by General Greene to the rescue 
of his countrymen on the other side of the mountains. 

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When Shelby returned from escorting the King's 
Mountain prisoners into Virginia, he repaired at once, 
with his small force of oyer-mountain men, to the head- 
quarters of General Gates at Hillsborough. Cornvallis 
had then suspended his retrograde morement, and was 
gathering his forces together at Winnsboro, in prepara- 
tion for another march northward. His purpose was 
divined by Shelby, whose short service in South Caro- 
lina had informed him that the region along the foot 
of the mountains was the very hot-bed of Toryism.. If 
the people there were not overawed and restrained by 
the presence of a patriot force, they would flock in 
great numbers to the standard of Cornwallis, and thus 
swell his army, already too large to be withstood by any 
body the patriots could bring into the field. These views 
Shelby presented to Gates, and recommended to him the 
sending of a moderate force into that region. This was 
not at once done, on account of the depleted and dis- 
organized condition of Gates's army, now reduced to 
barely fourteen hundred men ; but the suggestion was 

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acted upon by Greene when he assumed command early 
in November. He dispatched General Morgan upon that 
service, and hence ensued the battle of the Oowpens — 
which was the echo to that of King's Mountain. In 
this battle, as I have said, Shelby's small force bore a 
part under his brother Moses ; but Shelby himself had 
previously repaired to Halifax, to take his seat in the 
General Assembly of North Carolina, to which he had 
shortly before been elected. His presence in the Legis- 
lature explains his absence from the border operations 
of Sevier in the summer of 1781. 

Comwallis moved northward, and early in September 
the combined French and American forces were closing 
down upon him at Yorktown and Gloucester. Greene 
had fought the battle of Eutaw, and driven the British 
commander, Stuart, back toward the seaboard ; and he 
was now apprehensive that Cornwallis would attempt 
to escape by a retrograde movement through North 
Carolina to Charleston, where, joined by Stuart, and 
further re-enforced by Sir Henry Clinton, he might 
protract the war indefinitely. At this time Greene 
wrote to Washington, '^I am trying to collect a body 
of militia to oppose Lord Cornwallis, should he attempt 
to escape." The militia he referred to were the over- 
mountain men of Sevier and Shelby. 

To those leaders Greene had written on the 16th of 
September, urging them to come to him with all speed, 
and bringing as many riflemen as could be spared 
from the defense of the settlements. Owing to the dis- 

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tarbed state of the region, Greene's messengers did not 
reach Sevier and Shelby till some weeks afterward ; but 
when they did, the patriot leaders at once issued a call 
for five hundred volunteers, and in a few days were 
on the march with them over the mountains to Char- 
lotte. There they heard of the surrender of Comwallis 
on the 19th of October. This seemed to them an end- 
ing of the war, and they were about to return with 
their men homeward, when Greene proposed their join- 
ing Marion in driving Stuart into Charleston. The 
lower country was being devastated by the British and 
Tories, and, with the over-mountain men added to his 
own force, Marion would be able to drive them back 
to the seaboard. There was no counting overnight 
upon the peaceable behavior of the Chickamaugas, and 
Sevier and Shelby were already two hundred miles from 
their homes. They were asked to go still farther away, 
and for an indefinite period ; but they consented, and 
joined Marion at Davis's Ferry, on the Santee, in No- 

The arrival of the over-mountain men gave Marion 
a splendid body of cavalry and mounted riflemen, and 
put him in condition to meet the British commander, 
who was none other than Captain (now Colonel) John 
Stuart, of the British Highlanders. Marion set his force 
at once in motion, and moved forward to the vicinity 
of the enemy, who was posted at a place called Fergu- 
son's Swamp, on the great road to Charleston, and about 
twenty-five miles distant from that city. Here occurred 

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one of those exploits that were characteristic of Sevier 
and Shelby. They had heard of a body of Hessians, 
posted on the Charleston road^ about ten miles in the 
rear of Stuart, who were in a state of mutiny. This 
force could probably be captured without much resist- 
ance, and at once Sevier and Shelby asked the approval 
of Marion to an expedition for that purpose. 

With a body of about five hundred horsemen they 
set out in the early morning, and, making a wide detour 
through the woods to avoid Stuart, and riding rapidly, 
they came on the evening of the second day to a point 
on the Charleston road about two miles below the ene- 
my's position. Here they lay on their arms overnight, 
and in the morning learned that the disaffected Hessians 
had been already marched off to Charleston. They were 
now between that place and Stuart, and on the line of 
his communications ; but he, with a greatly superior 
force, lay between them and Marion. Their main object 
had eluded them, but, not to return empty-handed, they 
determined, despite the danger of interference from Stu- 
art, to assault and carry the British position. It was 
strongly intrenched, defended by an abattis, and a force 
of one hundred and fifty regulars, well supplied with arms 
and ammunition, and was said to be defensible against 
any force not supplied with artillery. 

Advancing upon the British position at break of day, 
Sevier and Shelby sent in a flag, demanding an uncon- 
ditional surrender. The answer returned was that the 
place would be held to the last extremity. Time was 

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of great valae^ and it was better to secare a yictory by 
negotiation than by fighting, so Shelby now went in him- 
self^ and made a second demand npon the British com- 
mander. He told him that his force was composed of 
oyer-monntain men, who fonght with knife and toma- 
hawk, as well as rifle, and, if once their blood was up, 
they conld not be restrained. If the commander was so 
foolhardy as to allow his post to be stormed, he must 
take the consequences. The ofiScer then inquired if the 
Americans bad any cannon. *^ We haye guns enough," 
answered Shelby, " to blow you to atoms in a moment ! '* 
"Then," said the officer, " 1 suppose I must surrender." 
At the worst, he could have held out until Stuart's 
whole army was upon the little force of patriots, for 
Shelby's "guns" were all of rifle-caliber. 

The patriots took a large supply of muskets, and 
the entire garrison prisoners, and, setting fire to the 
buildings and abattis^ they mounted the captured force 
behind them, and, without a moment's delay, set out to 
return to Marion. He was sixty miles away, but, again 
making a wide d&tour, they were in his camp at three 
o'clock on the following morning. They were closely 
pursued by Stuart, who, with his whole army, arrived 
within three miles of the American camp at sunrise — 
only three hours later than Sevier and Shelby. Marion 
was strongly posted in the rear of a swamp, and he de- 
sired nothing so much as an attack from the British. 
Accordingly, he ordered Sevier and Shelby to advance 
to the edge of the swamp, and to begin the attack as 

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soon as the enemy appeared in force before them. But 
the enemy did not appeal". Suddenly, without striking 
a blow, Stuart wheeled about and began a rapid and dis- 
orderly retreat to the very gates of Charleston. From 
some prisoners who had escaped he had learned that 
the men now opposed to him were the "yelling devils'* 
of King's Mountain, led by Sevier and Shelby. During 
five years these men had repeatedly balked his deeply 
concerted and wide-sweeping plan to subjugate the 
Southern colonies, and now their very names were to 
send him fleeing in disorder to his intrenchments at 
Charleston. The anaconda had been for some time dead ; 
but until now it had not been fully conscious that it 
had gone out of existence. This is the last that history 
has to do with John Stuart, of the British High- 

The British thus cooped up in Charleston, in Jan- 
uary, 1782, Governor Butledge convened the Legislature 
of the State, at a small town about thirty miles distant ; 
and thus, after two years of bayonet rule, civil govern- 
ment was restored to South Carolina. This done, the 
work of the over-mountain men was accomplished, and 
they returned, "through a deep snow," to their distant 
homes on the Holston and Watauga. 

On his arrival at the settlements, Sevier found affairs 
in a greatly disturbed condition. Large numbers of To- 
ries, who had fled from the Carolinas, had taken refuge 
among the Chickamaugas, and were inciting them to re- 
newed hostilities, and even among the better part of the 

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Cherokee nation there was a wide and serious dissatisfac- 
tion. Settlers had followed in the wake of Sevier's ex- 
peditions, and in considerable numbers had erected farm- 
houses and inclosed fields within the limits of the Indian 
country. Against this the Cherokees protested loudly 
— ^loud enough to be heard by Goyernor Alexander Mar- 
tin, five hundred miles away, over the mountains. This 
appears &om a letter which the Governor addressed to 
Sevier from Danbury, on February 11, 1782. It was as 
follows : 

" CoLOXEL JoHX Sevier. 
^^ Sib : I am distressed with the repeated complaints 
of the Indians respecting the daily incursions of our 
people on their lands beyond the French Broad Eiver. 
I beg you, sir, to prevent the injuries these savages 
justly complain of, who are constantly imploring the 
protection of the State, and appealing to its justice 
in vain. By interposing your influence on these, our 
unruly citizens, I think will have sufficient weight, with- 
out going to extremities disgraceful to them and dis- 
agreeable to the State. You will, therefore, please to 
warn these intruders off the lands reserved for the 
Indians by the late act of the Assembly ; that they re- 
move immediately, at least by the middle of March, 
otherwise they will be drove off. If you find them still 
refractory at the above time, you will draw forth a body 
of your militia on horseback, and pull down their cabins 
and drive them off, laying aside every consideration of 

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their entreaties to the contrary. You will please to giye 
me the earliest information of your proceedings.'' 

What heed Sevier gave to these orders of the Goyern- 
or does not appear from either record or tradition ; but 
it is probable that he bestowed upon them no attention. 
His view was that of Kobertson, that ^* Providence never 
intended that this rich and beautiful country should be 
given up to wild beasts and sayages," and he may not 
haye been oyerscrupulous about obserying treaties that 
were daily broken by the Indians. Moreoyer, it is un- 
likely that he would obey, from any source, orders to 
'^puU down their cabins," and erpel from the fields 
they had planted, the yery men who had shared with 
him the march, the biyouac, and the deadly onset of 
these same savages. Martin was Goyernor of North 
Carolina, but he had yery little power beyond the Alle- 
ghanies. There Sevier was autocrat, ruling by yirtue of 
the hold he had upon the affections of the people. They 
loyed him because of his loving-kindness to them; and 
could it be expected that the man so mercifully kind as 
to forgive the deserter who had imperiled the lives of a 
thousand of his comrades, would now proceed against 
his old companions in arms at the head of '' a body of 
his militia on horseback" ? 

This yiew of Sevier's action, or rather inaction, is 
confirmed by a ''talk'* addressed by Old Tassel to Goy- 
ernor Martin on the 25th of September, 1782 — ^more than 
seyen months later. It clearly shows that the settlers 

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had not been remoyed at that period. Old Tassel spoke^ 
he said, ''for the whole nation/' and in the presence ''of 
all the chiefs of the friendly towns, and a number of 
young men " ; and in his appeal there is a certain pathos 
which leads us to pity " the poor Indian/' and to almost 
forget that one half of the Cherokees were the most 
bloodthirsty of villains. He said to the Governor : 

"Brother, I am now going to speak to you. I 
hope you will listen to me. A string. I intended to 
come this fall and see you, but there was such confusion 
in our country, I thought it best for me to stay at 
home, and send my talks by our friend Colonel Martin, 
who promises to deliver them safe to you. We are a 
poor, distressed people, in great trouble, and we hope our 
elder brother will take pity on us and do us justice. 
Your people from Nolichucky are daily pushing us out 
of our lands. We have no place to hunt on. Your 
people have built houses within one day's walk of our 
towns. We don't want to quarrel with our elder brother ; 
we, therefore, hope our elder brother will not take our 
lands from us, that the Great Man above gave us. He 
made you and he made us ; we are all his children, and 
we hope our elder brother will take pity on us, and not 
take our lands from us — ^that our Father gave us — ^be- 
cause he is stronger than we are. We are the first peo- 
ple that ever lived on this land ; it is ours, and why will 
our elder brother take it from us ? It is true, some time 
past, the people over the great water persuaded some of 
our young men to do some mischief to our elder brother, • 

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which onr principal men were sorry for. But you, our 
elder brothers, came to our towns and took satisfaction, 
and then sent for us to come and treat with you, which 
we did. Then our elder brother promised to haye the 
line run between us agreeably to the first treaty, and all 
that should be found over the line should be moved off. 
But it is not done yet. We have done nothing to offend 
our elder brother since the last treaty, and why should 
our elder brother want to quarrel with us ? We have 
sent to the Governor of Virginia on the same subject. 
We hope that, between you both, you will take pity on 
your younger brother, and send Colonel Sevier, who is a 
good man, to have all your people moved off our land." 

This message illustrates the universal trust reposed 
in Sevier, even by his enemies. The very savages whom 
he had fought almost constantly for six years, and whom 
he had only recently punished with appalling severity, 
now, in their day of trouble, turn to him and beseech 
that he may be sent to them, because he is ^ a good 
man." It was, as I have said, this trait of large-hearted 
goodness, more than his other great qualities, that bound 
all men to Sevier, and enabled him to control so abso- 
lutely the rude elements by which Providence was clear- 
ing a way for civilization beyond the Alleghanies. 

But while Old Tassel was making these piteous ap- 
peals to his elder brother, his own unruly children, the 
Chickamaugas, banded with hordes of desperate Tories, 
were raiding upon the whole frontier as far north as 
Virginia. The authorities of that State were at once 

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aroused^ and speedily embodied a force to descend npon 
the Indian towns along the Tennessee* This force, sev- 
eral hundred strong, rendezTOUsed at the Great Island 
of the Holston, and there waited for supplies and am- 
munition. They waited till it was discovered that no 
supplies could be had, the State having no money in its 
treasury, and not enough credit to buy a pound of pow- 
der or a flitch of bacon. Shelby was away in Kentucky, 
and therefore could not, as before, come to the rescue 
of the bankrupt Commonwealth. Hence, the expedition 
was abandoned. 

But Sevier's treasury was in a more flourishing con- 
dition. Perhaps in all tho territory there was not a 
hundred dollars of legal currency, but he and his rifle- 
men had granaries full of com, and with this — ^parched 
and ground and saturated with niaple-sirup — they had 
gone on many a long march together. Seeing now that 
Virginia could not inflict deserved chastisement upon 
the Chickamaugas, Sevier took the work in hand him- 
self, though compelled, by the necessity of leaving the 
settlements properly protected, to go into the enemy's 
country with a force which would bo no more than a 
body-guard to a modem general. With but two hundred 
men he marched directly upon Echota. There he held 
a conference with Old Tassel and the Ottjiri chieftains, 
and so won their good- will that they not only laid 
aside their grievances, but gave him the escort of John 
Watts — :afterward their head chieftain— to guide the lit- 
tle army by the shortest and most direct route to the 

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Lookout towns on the Tennessee. Bnt to this result 
Nancy Ward largely contributed. The Chickamaugas 
had giyen no heed to her counsels or commands^ and it 
was therefore right, she thought, that they should feel 
the wrath of the Great Spirit. 

The friendship of the Ottari being thus secured, Se- 
vier deemed it prudent to moye with bis slender force 
against the Chickamaugas. On the eighth day after set- 
ting out from the Nolichucky he caine to their towns, 
and laid one after another of them in ashes, the Indians 
fleeing as before to their hiding-places along the river, 
where, not knowing the way, he could not follow. This 
was true of all but a body of about five hundred Tories 
and savages, who, under their ferocious chiefs, Cate- 
giskey, Big Fool, and Bloody Fellow, made a stand upon 
one of the upper slopes of Lookout Mountain, and there 
bade Sevier defiance. Crossing the broad river in the face 
of the enemy, he climbed the rugged mountain and at- 
tacked and routed this banditti on the identical spot 
where, eighty years later. Hooker fought his famous 
"battle above the clouds." Here his usual good fortune 
attended him. Kot one of his men was killed, and 
only three were slightly wounded. The most remark- 
able thing about all of Sevier's expeditions is the small 
number of casualties that befell his riflemen. In thirty- 
four battles — ^large and small — which he fought with the 
Indians during a period of twenty years, his total loss 
was only six killed — ^a death-roll without a parallel in 
modem warfare. This result was due to the celerity of 

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his moTcments and the impetnosity of his attacks, which 
always disconcerted, and thus rendered powerless the 

This defeat subdued for a time the warlike spirit of 
the Ghickamaugas, and soon afterward peace was pro- 
claimed with Great Britain. Then the men of the rear- 
guard returned to their homes, hung their rifles oyer their 
doorways, and went about the more peaceable employ- 
ments of civilization. They had rendered great and 
vital services to their country. So far as I know, no 
other body of equal numbers ever achieved such great 
results in human history. They balked the deeply laid 
plans of the British Cabinet, backed by the whole pow- 
er of the British Empiire. This they did in 1776, when 
but a handful of two hundred, and again in 1780, when, 
only a thousand strong, they climbed the Alleghanies 

*I should hesitate to make this statement had I not for it the author- 
ity of General Sevier himself. Among a large number of his letters, 
which have been most kindly furnished me by his great-granddaughter, 
the wife of the Hon. W. 0*Neil Perkins, of Franklin, Tennessee, is one 
addressed by him to her grandfather, Greorge Washington Sevier. It is 
dated February 20, 1814, and was written from Washington when Sevier 
was there as a member of Congress. In it he writes to his son: **The 
accounts from General Jackson to nnckney, of his last battles, have just 
arrived. He had twenty-five killed and seventy-five wounded, and says 
he killed two hundred of the enemy. After the first two actions he 
retreated to Fort Strother. There have been many brave men killed and 
wounded in the Creek campaign which might, by prudent conduct, have 
been avoided. These campaigns are very different from our former ones. 
In all mine the killed did not exceed six — a wide contrast indeed.** 

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and descended^ a liying avalanche, upon the British 
bayonets. And, in the closing crisis, they rushed once 
more to the front, and gave a final blow to the fleeing 
invaders. All this they did while their homes were 
encircled with savage fire — while the tomahawk was 
brandished above their heads, and the midnight torch 
was applied to their dwellings. They scaled untraveled 
heights, and waded the deep swamps of the seaboard; 
and under the broiling sun of the Santee, and amid the 
snow-storms of the Alleghanies, in such hunger and thirst 
and weariness as human nature seldom endures, they 
everywhere sought and found and conquered the enemy. 
And, more than all this, while in hourly danger by day 
and by night, and beleaguered by foes in front and in 
rear, they planted civilization west of the Alleghanies, 
and in those untrodden forests hewed out a home for 
the uncounted millions who are to follow them. Though 
but a handful, they did a great work — ^a work that could 
not have been better done had they been a hundred 
thousand. For all this the men of the rear -guard 
deserve to be held in grateful remembrance by their 

The surrender of Oomwallis was the natural sequence 
to the battle of King's Mountain, and it broke the power 
of Great Britain over her revolted colonies. When the 
British prime minister, Lord North, heard of it, he threw 
up his arms like one who had received **a ball in the 
breast," and exclaimed, as he paced wildly to and fro, 
" God ! it is all over ! " It did, indeed, for the mo- 

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ineut, seem to be "all over" with the magnificent Brit- 
ish Empire which had been builded by the elder Pitt. 
Five hundred million dollars had been added to its na- 
tional debt, and it had lost three millions of its subjects, 
and the larger portion of its possessions in America; 
while Ireland was in revolt, and the great powers of 
Europe were banded together for its destruction. It 
seemed about to sink from a vast world-power, girdling 
the globe, to an insignificant European kingdom, of no 
more influence or consequence in human ai&irs thau the 
little German principality from which its monarchs had 
sprung. To the verge of this ruin it had been brought 
by its narrow-minded king, who, ruling by his own per- 
verse will, had sought to obstruct civil progress, by 
shackling his subjects, at home and abroad, with an 
effete feudalism which the world had long outgirown. 
And George III would have given a death-blow to Eng- 
land's power, had there not been an English people, and 
a younger and greater Pitt, to lift Britain up to even a 
higher summit of greatness. Reading now the past in 
the light cast on it by the present, we see that it had 
so to be, for not otherwise could England and the Eng* 
lish race achieve their destiny, which is to carry freedom 
and civilization around the globe — ^a free-will offering to 
all the nations of the earth. But this work was to be 
done, not only by the ocean-girt nation, but by the Eng- 
lish race, and the race was to be educated up to its high 
mission to man}$hiQ. Hence, ah offshoot was severed 
from the parent trunk, and planted here, where it might 

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grow untrammeled by feudal ideas and kingly tradi- 
tions — itself free, and therefore fit to be the apostle of 
freedom. This new growth was to overshadow this 
continent, but to strike its strongest roots into the rich 
virgin soil west of the AUeghanies. There was to be 
its home, the seat of its empire, the heart-center of its 
teeming millions. Hence it is that the work of these 
men — Sevier, and Shelby, and Sobertson — the earlier 
portion of which I have here most imperfectly deline- 
ated, was not of passing moment, but of lasting signifi- 
cance — was pregnant with results which will be felt along 
the ages. Therefore, though obscure dwellers in the 
forest, doing their life-work in silence, seclusion, and 
all manner of untoward surroundings, they were im- 
portant actors in the great drama that is being played 
out upon this planet. They were conscious of their 
high mission ; they felt that they were doing the behests 
of a higher than human wisdom ; and so they sought 
neither human reward nor hunlan glory, and were con- 
tent to go to their graves, leaving their work and their 
names scarcely so much as noticed in history. 


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Digitized by CjOOQ IC 


Thomas Buckle. 2 vols. 8vo. Clotb, $4.00 ; half calf, extra, $8.00. 

" Whoever misses reading this book ivlll miss reading what is, in varioas 
respects, to tbe Irost of oar Judgment and ezperieuce, tbe most remarkable book 
of the dav— one, indeed, that no thoughtful, iiiqairiDg mind viroald miss reading 
for a good deal. Let the reader be as adverse as he may be to the writer's phi- 
losophy, let him be as devoted to the obstmctive as Mr. Buckle is to tbe progress 
party, let him be as orthodox in church creed as the>>ther is heterodox, as dog- 
matic as the author is skeptical — let him, in short, find his prejudices shocked 
at every turn of tbe argument, and all hia prepossessions whistled down the 
wind— still, there is so much in this extraordinary volume to stimulate reflection 
and excite to inquiry, and provoke to earnest investii;ation. perhaps (to this or 
that reader) on a track hitherto untrodden, and across tUe virgin soil of un tilled 
fields, fresh woods and pastures new, that we may fairly defy the most hostile 
spirit, the most mistrustl^l and least sympathetic, to read it through without be- 
in? glad of having done so, or having begun it. or even glanced at almost liny one 
of its pages, to pass it away unread.'*— ^6U7 Monthly Magazine (London). 

ESSAYS. By Walter Bagehot. Latest revised edition. Contain- 
ing Essays on the Characters of Lord Brougham and Sir Robert 
Peel, Bart., never before published in this country. With an Amer- 
ican Preface. 12mo. Cloth, $2.00. 

" A work that deserves to be widely and flaroiliarly known. Its title, however, 
is so little suggestive of its real character, and is so certain to repel and mislead 
American readers, that some prefatory words may be usefhl for tne correction of 
erroneous impresBions. It is well known that the term ' Ck>nstitntion,' in its 
political sense, baa very different significations in England and in this country. 
With us it means a written instrument. The Bnglisb have no such written docu- 
ment. By the national Constitution they mean their actual social and political 
order— the whole body of laws, usasres, and precedents, which have been in- 
herited from former generations, and by which tbe practice of government is 
regulated. A work upon the Bndish Constitution, therefore, brings us naturally 
to the direct consideration of the structure and practical working of English 
political institutions and social life. Mr. Bagehot is not so much a partisan or an 
advocate as a cool philosophical inquirer, with lar<fe knowledge, clear insight, 
independent opinions, and great fl*eedom from the bias of what he terms * tnat 
territorial sectarianism called patriotism.' Taking up in succession the Cabinet, 
the Monarchy, the House of Lords, the House of Commons, he considers them 
in what may be called their dynamical inter-actions, and in relation to the 
habits, traditions, culture, and character of the English people. We donbt if 
there is any other volume so useful for our countrymen to peruse before visiting 
England."— ^rom the American Pr^aee. 

TUS TO CHARLEXAGNE. By William E. H. Lecky. 
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*'Lecky has not chO(>en to deal with events In chronological order, nor does 
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S. BoLLES. 8vo. Cloth, $3.50. 

FROM 1861 TO 1883. By Albert S. Bolles. 8vo. Cloth, 

WORKS OF J, C. CALHOUN. Vol. T. On Governn:ent. Vol. 
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YEARS, FROM 1820 TO 1860. By Thomas H. Benton. New 
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APRIL, 1861, TO APRIL, 1865. By General Adam Badeau, Aide- 
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Ucvohitinn/'— ,'V/ w/ York TifmB. 

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rise of great parties in the nation. Yet the history of the people is the 
chief theme. At every stage of the splendid pro^^ss which separates 
the America of Washington and Adams from the America in which we 
live, it has been the author's purpose to describe the dress, the occupa. 
tions, the amusements, the literary canons of the times; to note the 
changes of manners and morals ; to trace the growth of that humane 
spirit which abolished ponishment for debt, and reformed the discipline of 
prisons and of jails ; to recount the manifold improvements which, in a 
thousand ways, have multiplied the conveniences of life and ministered 
to the happiness of our race ; to describe the rise and progress of that 
long series of mechanical inventions and discoveries which is now the ad- 
miration of the world, and our just pride and boast ; to tell how, under 
the benign influence of liberty and peace, there sprang up, in the course 
of a single century, a prosperity unparalleled in the annals of human 

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HISTORY OF HERODOTUS. An English Version, edited, with 

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AdamsU Mtmual qf HiUoriad Literature, 

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